Northern Ireland

Police investigate graveyard and airport fight 'link'

PSNI landrover Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption The incident unfolded at St Mary's church in Park on Saturday morning

Police are investigating whether fights on Saturday at a Londonderry graveyard and between passengers at Belfast International Airport are linked.

Police recovered loaded shotguns, ammunition, suspected acid and knives from the grounds of St Mary's church in Park, where about 200 people gathered on Saturday morning.

Later, passengers fought with poles and shopping baskets at the airport.

It remains unclear whether anyone has been arrested over the incidents.

The PSNI said a possible link between the two fights was "one line of enquiry".

Someone would have been killed had the police not intervened in Saturday morning's fight, said former SDLP councillor, Thomas Conway.

He said the crowd was understood to comprise two opposing factions of the traveller community.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Two shotguns were seized following the confrontation in the graveyard

"It was totally disrespectful to the dead and our community," Mr Conway told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme.

"For these people to come along and plan murder and mayhem in our village is totally, totally disrespectful."

The BBC understands that there was to be a blessing of graves in an area were some members of the traveller community were buried.

One group gathered in the church car park whilst the other group congregated in the graveyard with PSNI officers keeping the two factions apart.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Both seized shotguns were loaded

PSNI Ch Insp Alan Hutton said officers intervened and used "minimal force including the use of their batons, given the number of people involved".

Police said they were unable to confirm whether those involved were members of the travelling community.

Image caption The passengers involved in Saturday evening's fight armed themselves with poles and threw shopping baskets

The incident at Belfast International on Saturday night was described as "unsettling for both passengers and staff alike".

In a statement on Monday, an airport spokeswoman said it lasted seven minutes and that police arrived on the scene within three minutes.

The spokeswoman also said there had been some "inaccurate and misleading commentary about the incident".

She added that anyone with any information or photographic or video evidence should contact airport police.

The PSNI said officers "provided assistance to airport police", but it is not clear whether arrests were made.

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