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Thursday 27 April 2017

Police hurt in loyalist riots as tensions come to boil

Michael McHugh

Police were injured by flying masonry and a hijacked bus during serious loyalist rioting in the North.

A total of six officers were hurt during trouble last night in Co Antrim, linked to a dispute over flags, which saw angry mobs hurl petrol bombs and other missiles at police lines.

There were appeals for calm as community tensions threatened to boil over ahead of this week's July 12th, which marks the culmination of the Orange Order's marching season.

A Catholic church in Co Antrim was damaged with paint over the weekend and on Saturday homes came under sectarian attack in Co Derry.

PSNI chief inspector Derek MacCamley said: "It appears the disorder was caused predominantly by young people who were intent on attacking the police service. The cost to the police service is high but the cost to the community is much higher.

"Their actions do not reflect on the vast majority of people who live in the area -- who want to live in peace and go about their lives without fear or intimidation."

A hijacked bus was used to ram a PSNI vehicle, injuring five officers, and petrol bombs and other missiles were hurled by a crowd of up to 100 loyalists in Ballyclare, Co Antrim. Officers responded with water cannon and baton rounds. Another police officer was hurt after masonry was hurled.

A total of 15 vehicles were hijacked, including two buses. Several were set alight and used to attack police lines. Batons were fired by police in Ballyclare and nearby Carrickfergus and water cannon was used in Ballyclare. There was also less serious trouble in Larne, Co Antrim.

Loyalists in Co Antrim have been protesting after accusing police of removing flags from estates.

A man, aged 27, was arrested for riotous behaviour in Magherafelt, Co Derry, and homes were also attacked.

The Rev Noel Treanor, Catholic bishop of Down and Connor, appealed for respect: "Nobody wants these destructive acts, not least of all local residents. They endanger life, hurt us all and damage hope for the future.

"This violence wrecks our tomorrow. It robs our children of future jobs and opportunities."

Irish Independent

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