Tuesday 28 February 2017

Twelfth marches: Teenager injured in crash and at least 11 officers hurt

Deborah McAleese

A PSNI officer goes down injured after being hit by an object thrown by a loyalist protester
A PSNI officer goes down injured after being hit by an object thrown by a loyalist protester

AT LEAST 11 police officers and a teenage girl were injured during violence in north Belfast last night.

One of the officers injured is an inspector who sustained a serious ear injury when missiles were thrown at police lines from crowds of loyalists at Twaddell Avenue.

A number of baton rounds were fired and water cannon was used to try and control the crowds. Earlier officers rescued a teenage girl who got trapped underneath a car outside the Ardoyne shops.

The officers lifted the car onto its side to free the teenager. She was treated at the scene until an ambulance arrived.

The driver of the car, who is understood to be a member of the Orange Order, was arrested at the scene.

The girl's condition was last night described as stable.

Supporters cheer as an Orange Order parade on Crumlin Road, Belfast, adjacent to the nationalist Ardoyne neighbourhood as part of the annual Twelfth of July celebrations, marking the victory of King William III's victory over James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 Credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Supporters cheer as an Orange Order parade on Crumlin Road, Belfast, adjacent to the nationalist Ardoyne neighbourhood as part of the annual Twelfth of July celebrations, marking the victory of King William III's victory over James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 Credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
An Orange Order parade on Crumlin Road, Belfast, adjacent to the nationalist Ardoyne neighbourhood as part of the annual Twelfth of July celebrations, marking the victory of King William III's victory over James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 Credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
An Orange Order parade on Crumlin Road, Belfast, adjacent to the nationalist Ardoyne neighbourhood as part of the annual Twelfth of July celebrations, marking the victory of King William III's victory over James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 Credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Nationalist protesters are watched by police ahead of an Orange Order parade on Crumlin Road, Belfast, adjacent to the nationalist Ardoyne neighbourhood as part of the annual Twelfth of July celebrations, marking the victory of King William III's victory over James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 Credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Orange Order members by barricades ahead of a parade on Woodvale Road, north Belfast as part of the annual Twelfth of July celebrations, marking the victory of King William III's victory over James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 Credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Speaking from the scene, local priest Fr Gary Donegan said: "She has a head injury, and she has a neck injury.

"But I was actually with her, the poor wee girl was crying, she thought she was dying, and I was trying to reassure her. We got her mammy on the scene to reassure her. Her mother has gone to the hospital.

"She's able to move her legs at the moment, but obviously not having medical expertise I can't comment as to how seriously she is injured, but it's obviously miraculous that she's still alive."

Trouble first erupted when the return parade was stopped by police along the Woodvale Road. In ugly scenes, loyalists jeered at officers shouting "scum scum" before a crowd pulled down police barriers and ran towards police lines. They also attacked a group of Press reporters. Bricks and bottles and metal bolts were thrown as riot police moved in.

Residents in nearby houses quickly boarded up their doors and windows.

Further trouble erupted at the junction of Twaddell Avenue and the Woodvale Road. A number of officers were injured when struck by bricks and bottles. One officer in riot gear could be seen being helped away from the front line by a colleague. Another was assisted into the back of a police Land Rover with a bloody bandage wrapped around his head.

The crowds were warned on several occasions to move back or force would be used.

When they continued to attack police lines, baton rounds were fired.

It was a massive policing operation in north Belfast with a sea of police Land Rovers sealing off the area. Police commanders had lobbied the Orange Order, UPRG and PUP throughout the day in a bid to encourage them to reverse their decision not to marshal the return parade. The Orange Order said that its members would not act as marshals for the north Belfast parade in protest at recent Parades Commission determinations.

The UVF and UDA also indicated they would not provide "community stewards".

Officers had warned they were very concerned about the absence of marshalling at flashpoint areas.

Earlier, there was a large police presence in north Belfast with dozens of officers and police vehicles lining the flashpoint area near to the Ardoyne shops.

Nationalist residents groups staged a protest as the Ligoniel lodge marched past. The parade was restricted to 250 people and a single drum beat, which was observed.

During the morning outward parade, a 21-year-old man was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer and disorderly behaviour in the Ardoyne area. He was arrested along with a 32-year-old man, who was later released.

Around 1,000 police officers were either deployed or on standby in the north of the city throughout yesterday.

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton was at the flashpoint on Monday morning and tweeted: "Great leadership in the rain from senior officers Belfast City District Command Unit - facilitating parades & protest."

Ivan Lewis MP, shadow secretary of state, said: "The small minority determined to return to the bad old days must not be allowed to prosper. Politicians and community leaders should reiterate their support for the rule of law and condemn the violence without fear or favour.

"The Stormont House Agreement remains the only basis for political and financial stability in Northern Ireland."

Alliance Justice spokesperson Stewart Dickson MLA condemned the outbreak of trouble and said the whole of Northern Ireland would suffer.

"I am disappointed and disgusted by the scenes we have all witnessed, which will be the image of Northern Ireland that many people around the world will now see.

"I would appeal for an immediate end to the violence and call everyone involved to heed the words of the Orange Order and stand down.

Last weekend the Tall Ships attracted thousands of visitors to Belfast, projecting a positive image of a city open and welcoming to everyone. So it is even more disheartening to see those fantastic memories gone, to be replaced by scenes we hoped had been left behind.

"Following last year's calm event, I am absolutely appalled at what has unfolded tonight. Clearly the use of bolts and other objects as missiles show there was premeditated intent."

Irish Independent

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