East Belfast riots - 'heated exchanges' at meeting

Nationalist rioters attacked police landrovers on Wednesday night Nationalist rioters attacked police landrovers on Wednesday night

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There were heated exchanges at a public meeting in east Belfast on Thursday as residents on the loyalist side of an interface area met to discuss riots.

More than 100 people including politicians talked about violence on Monday and Tuesday night in the Short Strand area.

Police said loyalist paramilitaries, the UVF, orchestrated trouble.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Robinson held talks with UVF leaders about the violence.

At a separate public meeting on Thursday night, some residents criticised First Minister Peter Robinson and MP for East Belfast, Naomi Long, for not attending to talk to them.

The violence has been described as the worst in the area in 10 years.

Wednesday night was quieter after a series of meetings involving both nationalist and loyalist leaders took place earlier in the day.

Mr Robinson had already asked a senior NI government official to work with both communities.

The DUP has not commented on Mr Robinson's involvement in talks, refusing even to confirm that the meeting took place.

BBC NI Home Affairs correspondent Vincent Kearney said he understood the meeting took place shortly after 1530 BST.

Security

It was originally supposed to take place in east Belfast but was moved to Stormont Castle for security reasons.

Our correspondent added that Mr Robinson had condemned the violence on Wednesday and also emphasised how he would do anything he could to improve the situation.

"Peter Robinson said he would do anything he could to intervene and to help," our correspondent said.

"I think some on the loyalist side took that as a possible invitation that the door was open to the possibility of talks."

It is understood DUP MLA for East Belfast Sammy Douglas accompanied Mr Robinson at the talks.

It followed discussions between loyalist and nationalist leaders on Wednesday which were brokered by an organisation called Belfast Conflict Resolution Consortium and held at a community centre in north Belfast.

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