Belfast rioting: politicians and police react

Riot police and protesters

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Politicians in Northern Ireland have been giving their reaction to rioting in north Belfast on Monday.

Police fired a number of baton rounds after being attacked with petrol bombs.

More than 100 riot police were involved in an operation to remove republican protesters blocking the road ahead of a contentious Orange Order march in Ardoyne.

Alistair Finlay, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable

"The real challenge for everyone now is to find long-term achievable solutions to these few sensitive areas that remain.

"This is the only way we can move away from the disorder, tensions and fear that grips Northern Ireland every year.

Petrol bomb thrown at police Petrol bombs were thrown at police in the Ardoyne area

"We need to see real joined-up strategic political leadership, backed up by everyone in communities making their peaceful voices heard.

"Northern Ireland cannot afford to have violent images beamed across the world every summer - images which are totally unrepresentative of the vast majority of people who have embraced a peaceful and vibrant future.

"I would ask everyone to continue to work with police, politicians, communities and local representatives to restore calm this evening and over the coming days.

"Police will carry out a rigorous investigation in relation to all the recent incidents, which will include the examination of CCTV footage, and will work towards bringing all those found breaking the law to justice.

"We look forward to the day when major policing operations could be scaled back further and valuable resources directed at tackling crime and addressing community concerns."

Gerry Kelly, Sinn Fein North Belfast MLA

"This situation was brought about by the insistence of the Orange Order to march through three nationalist areas as an add-on to their main parade and the decision of the Parades Commission to facilitate them in this.

Protesters and riot police Riot police removed dissident republican protesters from the road

"The rioting we witnessed this evening is wrong, counterproductive and should not have happened. The decision of the PSNI to fire plastic bullets was also wrong and unacceptable.

"A number of small factions including Greater Ardoyne Residents Coalition, Eirigi and Republican Network for Unity, who had called for a mass mobilisation from outside this community, moved onto the road four hours before the parade was due.

"All that was achieved by this was that it undermined local residents and prevented them holding their planned protest.

"But it is obvious by the small numbers involved that there was no mass mobilisation here this evening.

"I would also appeal to the Orange Order to seriously consider whether year after year these are the headlines they want associated with their parades.

"There are only a handful of Orange Order parades which are contentious. It is time that the Loyal Orders faced up to this reality and entered into dialogue with local residents to resolve these issues."

Lord Morrow, DUP assembly member

"The Twelfth is the pinnacle of the Protestant cultural calendar, but year on year it is becoming more synonymous with orchestrated republican rioting, with few if any made amenable to the law.

"Once again the headlines are dogged with the vicious and brutal activities of the thug variety, who take over streets and communities to cause mayhem.

"The chief constable is deploying a policy of containment which basically boils down to letting these louts run riot with petrol bombs and other missiles, until they run out of energy.

"Meanwhile communities are held to ransom by these people to the tune of Sinn Fein's hollow remarks which conveniently direct blame to dissidents. Sinn Fein needs to be doing considerably more to assist police.

"I'd be surprised if there was one conscientious protester involved in the swathe of deplorable behaviour demonstrated in the last few days. This is hijacking the public highways by criminals, and sectarianism in its rawest and crudest form.

"The chief constable needs to urgently re-think his policies on rioting. Containment is simply appeasement and it is failing at all levels to address the issue.

"Justice Minister David Ford has also a duty to declare his unequivocal support for any new measures the chief constable may deem necessary in combating these mindless hooligans who run riot and are intolerant of any other cultures."

Alban Maginness, SDLP North Belfast MLA

"We are hostages to any group that wants to up the ante and create conflict.

"I don't think the Parades Commission got it right allowing a march which is so obviously not wanted by peaceable, law-abiding people of this area.

"Now, that is no excuse for those who went out of their way to create trouble, and I absolutely condemn them, particularly those who threw petrol bombs.

"But the fact is that even if there wasn't a single deliberate trouble-maker, most of the ordinary, decent people in the area just don't want this parade.

"The Parades Commission has got to get it right and has got to be supported in getting it right.

"Tonight proved beyond doubt that mixing parades with politics in some sort of DUP/Sinn Fein parading quango is a very bad idea.

"That would just make all of us and particularly the people of Ardoyne hostages to everyone with an extremist political agenda."

Brian Rea, Acting Chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board

"It is deeply regrettable that scenes of serious disorder and violence have once again spilled onto our streets.

"It is clear that despite the best efforts of community and political representatives, a small minority were intent on causing maximum disruption and inflicting terror on police and the wider community.

"Their actions were disgraceful and as a result, 55 officers have now been injured during the past two days.

"I hope all the officers injured make a speedy recovery, particularly the two officers hospitalised.

"Substantial policing resources were deployed by PSNI and the Board will receive a full report on the policing operation and costs in due course."

Pat Convery, Lord Mayor of Belfast

"We have to realise that Belfast and the people of Belfast deserve better. Dialogue is the only way forward and we must all renew genuine efforts to bring about peace.

"I am willing to use my office of Lord Mayor to facilitate face-to-face dialogue in an attempt to bring about progress on the parading issue.

"Stop-start dialogue only prolongs the agony for local communities.

"Society wants to move forward and the organised actions of the past 36 hours are doing nothing to reinforce the peace that the people of Ireland voted for."

David Ford, NI Justice Minister

"The ugly violent scenes which the police faced in Ardoyne last night were both sickening and disturbing and I wish all the police officers injured a speedy recovery.

"Many people will be shocked when they see the images of the rioting and the sustained attack the police came under.

"In the face of extreme provocation, police officers showed the most remarkable restraint and professionalism which helped contain the violence and their efforts deserve praise across the community.

"Last night's violence was the result of a small number of people who are determined to create havoc and misery in the community. Huge efforts were invested by the police, politicians and community leaders to avert trouble.

"However, what happened last night makes us all that more determined to redouble our efforts so that the small number of people who want to destroy our community will not be allowed to succeed."

Stephen Farry, Alliance Party assembly member

"This rioting is caused by a small minority intent on creating mayhem and inflicting violence on the police. It is not reflective of the wider community in those areas.

"However, the impact of these actions may be profound. These actions undermine attempts to tackle deprivation and to regenerate the areas affected.

"These actions can damage Northern Ireland's image at a time when the focus needs to be on the economy and protecting public services.

"Everyone should rally around and show solidarity with the police, particularly when officers are now regularly getting injured in the line of duty while working to keep the community safe."

Glyn Roberts, Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association

"This mindless violence is absolutely the last thing our struggling economy needs at this time.

"At a time when we are facing huge budget cuts, trying to move our economy out of recession and attract more tourists to Northern Ireland, this violence by a small minority is completely counterproductive.

"We are trying to portray Northern Ireland as a good place to do business and, once again, images of riots and violence are being shown across the world by the international media.

"It is also sickening that, with vital front-line public services under threat, the actions of these rioters have left the PSNI with little choice but to spend millions to police these situations"

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