More police sent to North after night of rioting
The Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland has requested more support from police forces in Britain to deal with potential further Loyalist violence.
Matt Baggott announced that a further 400 ‘Mutual Aid Officers’ were on their way to the North to supplement 650 officers and their vehicles ferried in last week to deal with Twelfth of July parades.
Matt Baggott said that 32 of his officers were injured during disturbances in north and east Belfast last evening after the PSNI blocked a return route for one District Lodge to comply with a Parades Commission ruling.
The Chief Constable criticised Orange Order leaders for calling for protests on Friday evening in Belfast to protest at the ruling and said that they had not prepared to either organise or supervise the protest action.
He described the rioting which injured his officers as “shameful and disgraceful” and said Orange Order leaders needed to reflect on their statements which he said had brought many people onto the streets.
Police are maintaining a presence at the north Belfast Ardoyne flashpoint following five hours of rioting on last night.
More than thirty officers were injured in the skirmishes and the MP for the area Nigel Dodds was knocked unconscious with a brick as angry Loyalists vented their fury on police lines over a Parades Commission decision.
Baton rounds were fired and water canon was used to quell the rioting which police said involved the use of ceremonial swords traditionally carried by Orange lodges.
Rioting also erupted in east Belfast around St. Matthews catholic church as Orangemen from the area returned to their home base from the Twelfth demonstration venue in south Belfast.
The violence marred an otherwise peaceful day of annual Twelfth demonstrations across the North where over 500 parades were staged including one in Derry where a new Orange banner was unfurled depicting the new ‘peace’ bridge across the River Foyle which divides the two traditions in the city.
Nationalist politicians predicted the violence in north Belfast after the Orange Order announced that it would stage “protests” across the city in response to a Parades Commission ruling that the return District parade past shop fronts at the Ardoyne interface would be banned.
The situation on the Woodvale Road last night quickly descended into a riot situation around 8pm as the small District Lodge made its way to police lines barring their route. Petrol bombs, bricks and other missiles were thrown at police during the five hours of rioting as the PSNI upheld the Parades Commission ruling.
The Democratic Unionist Party MP had been speaking to a senior police officer shortly before he was struck and felled with a piece of masonry thrown towards police lines. He was rushed to hospital unconscious but after treatment was released. On Wednesday Mr. Dodds was expelled from the House of Commons after accusing the Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers of “deliberate deception” over her refusal to intervene and reverse the Parades Commission ruling.
The ruling was the first ever decision to ban Orangemen from parading past the shop fronts at the Ardoyne on the Twelfth and is viewed as a parallel with the Garvaghy Road ban in Portadown.
The Grand Chaplin to the Orange Order Grand Lodge Rev. Mervyn Gibson accused republicans and nationalists of in effect expelling Protestants from the road because of their religion.