Police blame loyalists for Belfast parade trouble

BBC Newsline's Mervyn Jess reports

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The police have blamed loyalists for Sunday's trouble at a nationalist parade in north Belfast.

They said up to 350 loyalists were involved in rioting which left 47 officers injured.

Northern Ireland Chief Constable Matt Baggott said he was seeking meetings with the Department of Justice and the Northern Ireland Policing Board following the violence.

He said the community could not afford a repeat of the trouble.

The first and deputy first ministers are meeting community leaders in north Belfast to discuss contentious parades in the area.

Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford said it was too early to say whether the violence had been orchestrated.

"What was clear was that there was a major difficulty with a number of people who obviously set out to cause trouble, as a result of which 47 officers were injured," he said.

"That's the key concern of the chief constable at the moment and obviously the police will be following up things like CCTV evidence with a view to prosecutions."

The chair of the Policing Board, Brian Rea, said the board planned to meet on Thursday to discuss the violence.

Police were attacked with petrol bombs, fireworks, bricks and bottles during hours of disorder at Carlisle Circus.

Police have said the trouble began with loyalists throwing missiles at Carlisle Circus on Sunday afternoon, with others from the republican side getting involved as well.

It has been claimed the loyalists were angry that the republican parade had no restrictions placed on it.

Amateur footage from the loyalist side of the police lines shows republican bands passing Clifton Street Orange hall.

Members of the loyalist North and West Belfast Parades Forum including its spokesman Winston Irvine had gathered on the balcony at the front of the hall.

In the footage taken by loyalists some republicans can be seen throwing golf balls and gesturing to the loyalists as police directed the parade into Henry Street across the road.

People can also be seen breaking up paving stones on the kerbs as officers in riot gear move in to disperse them.

Meanwhile loyalist crowds were being pushed back into Denmark street on the Shankill side of Carlisle Circus.

Forty-seven police officers were injured during the hours of rioting that followed.

Police confront loyalists Police had been keeping loyalist protesters back from a republican parade

After the parade took place there was also trouble between loyalists and republicans, according to the police.

The PSNI used water cannon to disperse rioters and said calm was restored to the area at about 02:00 BST on Monday. Most of the violence was centred in Denmark Street and the Antrim Road.

Four officers were taken to hospital. One policeman remains in hospital with injuries that are not life threatening.

Tension

A 17-year-old boy arrested during the trouble has been charged with riotous assembly, assault on police, assault causing actual bodily harm and resisting arrest.

Tensions had been high following disturbances at a loyalist march in the same the area last weekend.

Seven police officers were injured in the previous disorder which took place on Saturday 25 August, during the annual Royal Black Institution demonstration.

Bricks and bottles were thrown as several loyalist bands defied Parades Commission rulings and played music as they marched past St Patrick's Catholic Church on nearby Donegall Street.

North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds said he was hopeful that the argument over parades could be resolved.

"I remain hopeful because we have already seen some constructive engagement on both sides," he said.

Mr Dodds said dialogue, respect and quiet conversation could resolve the matter.

But he said he felt that good behaviour by the loyal lodges had ended in punishment, whilst bad behaviour by dissident republicans had been rewarded.

However, Sinn Fein north Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly argued: "We are dealing with sectarian activity outside a Catholic church and a further parade the following Saturday.

"The DUP have lectured people for 40 years about breaking the law."

Mr Kelly said the difficulty was that spokespersons for the loyal orders did not seem to be available.

"Are these loyalist parades or loyal order parades?" he asked.

"At the core of this is direct talks without preconditions with the people affected. The people in Carrick Hill have to face 30 parades every summer."

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