Further violence breaks out in Northern Ireland despite appeals for calm
Violence has broken out once more on the streets of Northern Ireland, despite appeals for calm.
A car was set alight in Sperrin Park in the Waterside area of Londonderry, while there were also reports of violent incidents in Carrickfergus, near Belfast. Both locations have been the scene of violence and unrest among the loyalist community in recent days.
Earlier, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) had appealed to community leaders to put a stop to the disorder that has taken place throughout much of the last week.
On Sunday night, five police officers sustained injuries after being pelted with petrol bombs and masonry in Belfast, bringing the total number of police injured in incidents in Londonderry and Belfast over the Easter weekend to 32.
Throughout last week, tensions in predominantly unionist communities spilled over into violent incidents, with petrol bombs being thrown at PSNI officers and bins and pallets set on fire.
Speaking on Monday, PSNI Ch Supt Davy Beck said police stood ready for another night of unrest, but urged community leaders to put a stop to it.
He said: “Right now, as we speak, my officers are in those areas, they’re working hard to provide those police services. Be that in respect of crime, be that in terms of road safety, be that in terms of others concerns in the community.
“We’re there and we’re doing that. I will have additional resources available to me and we will respond to whatever may develop.
“But there’s an opportunity to stop this. This doesn’t have to be a third night of trouble in the Cloughfern and Newtownabbey/Carrickfergus area. I would encourage people with influence in those communities to put a stop to this.”
Ch Supt Davy said the attacks were “clearly orchestrated”. He added: “I believe that there’s a small group of disaffected criminal elements that are clearly involved in influencing young people, and I would appeal to young people in those areas not to allow this to happen.
“I think it’s also fair to say that there’s probably no coincidence to this. We have been successful in that area in respect on some of these criminal gangs. So I think that this perhaps has been a reaction from some of those people who are involved in criminality.”
Asked if he thought the South Antrim UDA were behind the attacks, he replied: “As I said, I believe that this is a group of disaffected criminal gangs and we will investigate that.”
On Monday night, a masked loyalist band marched through the streets of Portadown, playing drums and flutes and waving flags. Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd condemned the march, which he said was intended to intimidate the local community.
A similar march took place in Markethill on Monday. It raises questions as to whether the Parades Commission was notified of these events, as is required by law.
Children as young as 12 have been involved in some of the incidents that have taken place over the weekend, police said.
Tensions have soared within the loyalist community in recent months over post-Brexit trading arrangements, which it is claimed have created barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Anger ramped up further last week following a controversial decision not to prosecute 24 Sinn Féin politicians for attending a large-scale republican funeral during Covid-19 restrictions.
All the main unionist parties have demanded the resignation of PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne, claiming he has lost the confidence of their community.
Meanwhile, in County Antrim, a recent series of drug seizures against the South East Antrim UDA – a renegade faction of the main grouping – have caused particular ill-feeling towards police. The faction is believed to have been behind the disturbances in Newtownabbey on Saturday.
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