PSNI claims riots 'orchestrated'
Rioting yesterday in Northern Ireland in which 21 PSNI officers were injured was orchestrated, police said today.
One member of the force was knocked unconscious under a barrage of stones, fireworks, blast bombs and other missiles in north Belfast last night.
Sinn Féin has blamed dissident republicans for the violence which came as Orangemen completed their July 12 parade through the Ardoyne housing estate.
Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said: “Clearly it is a sinister development but it seems to be part of the orchestration of this.”
He said troublemakers used the cover of public disorder to launch a serious and potentially life-threatening onslaught. “They want to derail the whole (peace) process through that.
“It was an extraordinarily dangerous situation. The police officers were disciplined and courageous and they performed the duties they were trained to do with tact and restraint,” Assistant Chief Constable Finlay said.
At one stage a bullet was fired at the police lines while burning vehicles were also pushed towards them. Officers responded with water cannon and non-lethal rounds.
Crowds had gathered ahead of the return parade by Orangemen from their July 12th demonstrations.
Speaking today, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said the Orange Order and republican politicians should hold talks on the small number of parades that are still linked to tension in Northern Ireland.
“But let’s look at the big picture in terms of what it used to be like and what it’s now like.
“What happened last night is wrong. It’s reprehensible. And all of us who are leaders, and I include the Orange leadership, have a duty to look at how these disturbances occur," he said.
Mr Adams said Orange Order leaders should remove their refusal to hold talks with elected Sinn Féin politicians. "My biggest frustration is that thus far the Orange Order has contributed nothing to the peace process."
Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly blamed the Real IRA for the trouble. “This evening’s actions expose very clearly the anti-peace process and sectarian agenda which feeds these factions. It has nothing whatever to do with Irish republicanism,” he said.
Democratic Unionist Party Culture Minister Nelson McCausland said the major issue was the scale and ferocity of last night’s dissident violence.
“If someone makes sectarian comments no matter who it is or where, I don’t condone that in any way,” he said. “I think the focus should certainly be not only on some comments here or there and you can find comments in every community across Northern Ireland, it is far from a perfect society."
Elsewhere, in Derry there were minor disturbances and there was also trouble in Rasharkin, Co Antrim and Armagh.
In Rasharkin, officers sustained minor injuries when they were struck by stones and bricks by youths in the village. Petrol bombs were thrown. One man was arrested.
There were disturbances during the return leg of the Twelfth parade in Derry and minor trouble in the Butcher’s Gate area where one policeman sustained a slight injury.
Police came under attack with petrol bombs and paint during disturbances in Armagh following a security alert at Friary Road in which a minor explosion occurred.
Four people have been arrested for public order offences following a number of minor disturbances.
At least two cars were also stolen and set alight on Friary Road.