Man charged with attempted murder at parades protest

Teenager seriously injured, 25 police officers injured and 9 people arrested in north Belfast

Eyewitness footage captures the response of the public and the PSNI after a 16-year-old girl was injured when a car mounted a pavement in Ardoyne.

 

The PSNI officer in overall command of policing for the Twelfth of July parades has criticised the Orange Order for the level of marshalling it provided prior to loyalist violence flaring in north Belfast on Monday night.

Assistant chief constable Stephen Martin was speaking in the aftermath of the serious street disorder; which saw 25 police officers injured – one suffering an “effectively” severed ear, another almost having a finger bitten off – and left cross-community relations damaged.

Amid the violence a car, believed to have been driven by a loyalist, crashed into a group of nationalists and police officers standing close by at the Ardoyne shops. Eye-witnesses said the driver may have panicked and lost control of the car as he tried to drive away from the scene.

Initially, there were great concerns for the life of the 16-year-old Phoebe Clawson who was trapped under the car. Police officers turned the car over on its side and the girl was treated on the road before being brought to hospital. There was great relief later when it was learned that, while seriously injured, her injuries were not life threatening.

Mr Martin said an older woman sustained a suspected fractured wrist while a number of officers were also injured in the incident.

Last night the PSNI confirmed that a 61-year-old man has been charged with two counts of attempted murder in connection with the car incident and is due to appear in court on Wednesday morning.

A vigil attended by 250 people was held in Ardoyne on Tuesday night at 8pm for Ms Clawson. Her aunt Patricia McAuley said the girl suffered fractures to her collar bone, ankle and pelvis.

Around the same time at Twaddell Avenue Orangemen and loyalists held the nightly parade and protest that they have been staging for almost two years now to police lines at the top of the avenue where they were again barred from parading on by the adjacent Ardoyne shops.

These protests which began after Orangemen were prevented from returning by the shops in July 2013, have so far cost £17 million to police.

Twenty of the officers were injured in violence at three adjacent locations in north Belfast on Monday night – close to the top of the Woodvale Road where Orangemen were blocked from progressing past the Ardoyne shops; at Twaddell Avenue; and at the shops where the teenage girl was injured.

In advance of the parade, senior PSNI officers privately warned they were concerned that the Orange Order would not provide sufficient marshalling at the Woodvale Road flashpoint where initially a relatively low-key police operation was in place.

But eight minutes after the Orangemen were blocked at this point by police steel barriers, protesters started firing missiles at the PSNI and reporters, forcing police in riot gear to strengthen the line with Land Rovers.

That violence then spread to the top of Twaddell Avenue beside the Ardoyne shops where loyalists again hurled bricks, stones, bolts and bottles at the police. It was here that a PSNI inspector was struck by a heavy piece of masonry that, as Mr Martin said, “effectively severed his ear”.

The officer has undergone surgery to reattach his ear. Mr Martin said another officer was fortunate not to lose his finger. “The surgeon has said if he was not wearing his motorcycle glove he would have had his finger bitten off,” he said.

He said that five plastic bullets were fired by police with, they believe, four of the protesters struck by them. Water cannons were also used at Twaddell Avenue. Nine people were arrested.

Mr Martin said that it was “regrettable” that the Orange Order did not provide better marshalling of events. “I have been on record and the police have been on record saying that we had hoped for more effective marshalling of the parades,” he said. “There was marshalling that occurred last year in north Belfast that did not occur this year.”

A spokesman for the Orange Order said the parades were marshalled as normal. “We advised the police of that, and informed them we would be unable to marshal any serious crowd trouble. We repeatedly called for no violence,” he added.

Mr Martin said he did not believe there was any paramilitary involvement in the violence or that it was orchestrated and praised community activists on both loyalist and nationalist sides for attempting to quell the violence.