Rioters will be brought to justice, says PSNI
POLICE HAVE warned that people involved in rioting at Ardoyne in north Belfast on the Twelfth night and in other parts of Northern Ireland over recent days will be tracked down and brought before the courts.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland remained on high alert last night to deal with any further outbreaks of nationalist violence after what a senior officer described as the “mindless” thuggery at Ardoyne on Tuesday night.
Twenty-six people were arrested during rioting in Ardoyne, in south Belfast, in Derry and in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, on Tuesday night. Eleven people were arrested in Derry, nine in Ardoyne – including a 12-year-old boy – five in the markets area of south Belfast and one in Castlederg.
Sixteen police officers were injured and 55 plastic bullets fired by police during the disturbances.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alastair Finlay said most parts of Northern Ireland were peaceful over the Twelfth.
“Yet for these few streets we get headlines of violence, of people injured, of communities and relationships being broken and infrastructure and property damaged,” he said.
About 200 rioters were involved in the trouble at Ardoyne. Mr Finlay described them as “mindless thugs” and said there was no evidence this disorder was orchestrated.
Mr Finlay said the police officer whose helmet was set on fire by a petrol bomb was back on duty later, demonstrating his bravery and the quality of the police riot gear.
An Orange Order feeder parade passed the Ardoyne shops on Tuesday night and several rioters who were involved in the disturbances there last year were jailed.
Police made several arrests after the disorder using film and forensic evidence.
Mr Finlay made clear a similar operation would now ensue. “There will be a follow-up operation like last year and people will be brought before the courts,” he said at a police briefing yesterday morning.
While local nationalists continue to oppose the Orange Order parading past the Ardoyne shops on the Crumlin Road, the DUP MP for North Belfast Nigel Dodds said they must realise that the road was a “shared space and not just a nationalist road”.
Local Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly said the chief reason tensions were raised in the area each summer was entirely down to the continuing failure of the Orange Order to sit down and enter dialogue with its neighbours.
“There was no actual reason for the riot,” local SDLP MLA Alban Maginness said, “beyond the fact that a small number of people wanted a riot, planned a riot and got a riot.”