Northern Ireland

Talks follow sectarian attack in Suffolk, west Belfast

Community leaders in west Belfast have said relations between Protestants and Catholics have not been damaged by weekend violence in the Suffolk area.

A house and four vehicles were attacked in Ringford Park on Friday.

It is understood nationalist youths were involved in the attack in a loyalist area.

Residents, community workers and politicians from the DUP, SDLP and Sinn Fein held a joint news conference after meeting police at lunchtime on Monday.

They said police had promised extra patrols in the area.

A number of Catholic families went to Protestant households to offer support following Friday night's attack.

Gerry McConville, director of the Falls Community Council, said: "An incident like this shows just how strong those relations are.

"On Friday night, both sides of the community came together to try to stop this attack and we've been out on the streets since then with our colleagues across the divide."

UDA leader Jackie McDonald said: "There's goodwill here. It's not exactly a shared space, but there's a shared recognition of the problems.

"I think the two communities have worked very well together."

'Questions to be answered'

One issue raised at the meeting was a claim that at the weekend a police officer advised residents to move out of the area.

"The police officer said to the lady 'well if incidents like this keep occurring, then maybe you should consider packing up and moving out'," the DUP's Ruth Patterson said.

"There are questions to be answered here - police officers are here to police and protect this community, not to give advice on to where that community should be heading."

Police said they were aware of the claim and were investigating it.

They are treating Friday night's attack as a hate crime. Political representatives claimed up to 100 youths were involved.

The police said they had earlier been called out to a house party in Brooke Drive. Some youths had moved into the street and there were scuffles.

The police said there were between 50 to 100 youths in the area but they said no offences were noted in regard to this incident.

One Suffolk resident told the BBC: "They were like animals, that's how you would describe them, animals.

"If there had have been anybody on this road there would have been a murder scene - that's how bad it was."

In a separate incident on Monday night, the DUP said a car was damaged in the Suffolk area in a sectarian attack.

It said a windscreen was broken when stones were thrown from the Stewartstown Road.

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