Northern Ireland

£200k cost of repairing Newtownabbey rioting damage

Damage caused during loyalist rioting in Newtownabbey on Monday night will cost £200,000 to repair.

At least six cars and a bus were burnt out and stones thrown at police vehicles in the Rathcoole estate when trouble broke out at about 2030 BST.

About 200 youths were involved in the trouble with more than 150 police officers drafted in to deal with it.

Police have said that loyalist paramilitaries were involved in the trouble.

Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland said police were studying CCTV footage of the rioting.

He said arrests were certain to follow, as they had after republican riots in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast over the Twelfth of July period.

'Traumatised'

A union representative said the bus driver had been forced off his vehicle and assaulted by masked men.

Unite union representative Michael Dornan said he had spoken to the driver, who was "traumatised and in shock" following his "horrific ordeal".

"When we become bus drivers, we're professionally trained in how to deal with a hijacking situation," he said.

"I have no doubt he would have complied with any demand and would never have resisted, yet he was still severely beaten."

Mr Dornan said the driver had suffered facial injuries after masked men forced him off his bus. He was treated in hospital for his injuries.

A Translink spokesman said: "We strongly condemn this attack and appeal for any information to be passed over to the PSNI."

Serious crime raids

The riots on Monday evening followed a number of earlier police raids in the mainly loyalist area.

The PSNI said the searches were part of Operation Stafford, an ongoing serious crime branch investigation into a series of murders and other crimes by the UVF in north Belfast.

At the end of last year, the PSNI took on the investigation from the Historical Enquiries Team.

Police rejected claims that officers had been heavy-handed during the raids.

Ken Wilkinson, a representative of the UVF-linked Progressive Unionist Party, said "the way a lot of these searches were carried out leaves a lot to be desired", adding that one of the houses raided belonged to a lady suffering from ill-health.

Mr Wilkinson said the trouble had been flagged up online.

"It was on Facebook last night and yesterday afternoon, about young people telling other people to congregate," he said.

"We went and approached young people last night and put ourselves at risk.

"I spoke to some of the young people on the ground and I appealed to them not to partake in what was going on and they went away."

A quantity of suspected cannabis was seized during the searches. A 34-year-old man was arrested. He has since been released pending further enquiries.

Police said they worked with community representatives to restore calm to the area by 0045 BST.

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