Northern Ireland

Ballyclare trouble: Wilson calls it 'over-reaction'

Media captionThe aftermath of Sunday morning's violence

The DUP's Sammy Wilson said the violence in counties Antrim and Londonderry on Saturday night was an "over-reaction".

Mr Wilson said he believed the trouble was "orchestrated" in an attempt to "spread police resources".

He condemned the trouble and said "there are other ways of resolving things".

However, Mr Wilson said the removal of flags in Ballyclare by police could have been handled "more sensitively."

Six police officers sustained whiplash after rioting in the Doagh Road and Grange Estates in Ballyclare on Saturday night. Trouble flared after loyalist flags were removed from near a Catholic church.

Police deployed water cannon and baton rounds were used after a number of petrol bombs and missiles were thrown. Loyalists were believed to be involved.

The DUP MP said: "At a time like this when there have been tensions amongst the loyalist community, police do need to handle these situations sensitively.

"They probably do recognise that it could have been handled a bit better than maybe it was."

Alliance Party leader David Ford said "the police were right to take down flags in Ballyclare".

The MLA for South Antrim said officers "acted entirely in accordance with the flags protocol".

Mr Ford, who is also the justice minister, said flags had been removed in 2010 following negotiations between police and community leaders.

"This year, I understand that local police representatives had lengthy negotiations about the removal of both paramilitary flags and flags outside the Catholic church, but these negotiations were not successful," he said.

"The decision to remove the flags after negotiations had failed was in accordance with the flags protocol and represented appropriate action by the police.

"They bear no blame for what happened on Saturday night. The blame lies entirely with those who caused fear and mayhem in Ballyclare."

More trouble

Image caption A number of vehicles were damaged during the trouble in Ballyclare, County Antrim

There were also reports of trouble in Magherafelt, Carrickfergus, Larne and Ballyduff in Newtownabbey.

At about 0300 BST on Sunday, police were called to the Leckagh Drive area of Magherafelt, County Derry, to trouble involving up to 50 people close to a bonfire.

Police were attacked by missiles as they tried to remove a barricade.

A Catholic family who have lived in the Leckagh Drive area for 20 years said they were moving out of the estate as they no longer felt safe.

Their home was one of four damaged in overnight attacks. The home and car of a District Policing Partnership member were also targeted.

In the Ballyduff estate in Newtownabbey, County Antrim, a number of missiles were thrown at police.

In Larne, County Antrim, police and fire crews were attacked by youths wearing balaclavas as they attended suspicious fires at derelict flats.

They were called to the Shanlea Drive area shortly before 0430 BST on Sunday morning.

A trailer was set on fire and blocked the road in Cairngorm Drive until it was removed by police at about 0740 BST.

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