PSNI calls for marches solution

 

Northern Ireland’s chief constable today called for a major debate on controversial parades after he released footage showing officers came under frenzied attack from rioters.

Matt Baggott said the police images showed that his officers had displayed great restraint.

A total of 55 officers were injured during two days of violence surrounding the Orange Order’s July 12th parades.

Police fired 70 baton rounds and used water cannon during riots, the worst of which took place last night in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast where nationalists protested against an Orange Order parade.

A female officer is stable in hospital after being hit on the head with masonry at the height of the Ardoyne riot.

Police officers were forced to crouched down behind police vehilcles and warned people to get back, amid concerns of possible blast bombs or sniper attacks.

Meanwhile, three police officers were shot during trouble at North Queen Street in north Belfast on Sunday night. They were wounded when a masked man reportedly emerged from a nationalist crowd and fired a shotgun. None of the officers sustained life-threatening injuries, according to the PSNI.

Police said 14 officers were injured in violence in the New Lodge area of north Belfast on Sunday, while 13 were injured when confronted by about 200 nationalist youths close to the Broadway roundabout on Donegall Road in west Belfast. Police used a water cannon at Broadway and fired plastic bullets. Police were pelted with petrol bombs, bottles, bricks and stones.

The trouble on Sunday erupted as police formed lines to separate nationalists on the Donegall Road from hundreds of loyalists attending a traditional Eleventh Night bonfire in the Village area of Belfast.

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson praised the police and condemned those behind the violence as “cynical enemies of the whole community”.

The Chief Constable said that while exact figures were not yet available, the violence would cost millions of pounds and he promised a major investigation into the rioting.

“The cost of policing last night in that small part of Northern Ireland is the equivalent of a ward in a hospital, it’s the equivalent of a primary school, it’s the equivalent of neighbourhood policing,” said the Chief Constable.

“And it is time to have that big debate about what is really important for the future in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Baggott implicated dissident republicans opposed to the peace process in fomenting violence, which he said included teenagers but also children as young as eight. The police chief said the disturbances were a dangerous cocktail of “recreational rioting with a sinister edge”.

The footage released today was captured by a police helicopter and showed a line of riot police being repeatedly attacked by masked men armed with iron bars and wooden posts. Mobs were also shown launching sustained attacks on armoured police vehicles.

The female officer injured in Ardoyne had a cement block thrown on to her head and was pelted with missiles by rioters as police colleagues and ambulance crews came to her aid.