Wednesday 21 February 2018

PSNI chief calls in more UK police to help tackle 'shameful' loyalist riots

Alan Murray

THE Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has requested more support from police 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 brought in last week to deal with the 'Twelfth of July' parades.

Mr Baggott said 32 of his officers were injured during disturbances in north and east Belfast last Friday 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 in Belfast over the ruling and said they had not prepared to either organise or supervise the protest action.

He described the rioting that 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 on to the streets.

Police are maintaining a presence at the north Belfast Ardoyne flashpoint following five hours of rioting after the marches. More than 30 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.

Baton rounds were fired and a 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.

The violence marred an otherwise peaceful day 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 it would stage "protests" in response to a Parades Commission ruling that the return District parade past shops at the Ardoyne interface would be banned.

The situation last Friday evening quickly descended into riots 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.

Mr Dodds 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 was released after treatment.

Last Wednesday, Mr Dodds was expelled from the House of Commons after accusing 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.

Irish Independent

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