PSNI call for 'restraint' after flag riots

Published Monday, 11 July 2011
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Police are appealing for community restraint as they prepare a "significant" security operation for the Twelfth of July, describing it as the "most demanding day of the year."

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay has appealed to those with influence to "stay calm" over the next 48 hours.

He said 60 new police Land Rovers will be used for first time as part of the security operation on Tuesday.

"This is a period of heightened tension and I'm here to appeal for those who have a particular ability to influence, to stay calm, to stay collected, to talk to one another," he added.

In Pictures: Ballyclare Riot Aftermath

ACC Finlay said that disorder is having a detrimental impact on communities across Northern Ireland.

"Such violence damages local infrastructure, it sets back relationships and leaves wounds which take time to heal.

"Every hour spent in countering riotous attack, in dealing with disorder, every casualty evacuated during these incidents has the potential to deprive communities of vital resources that could be used to increase the quality of life for everyone," he said.

His comments echoed those of the First and Deputy First Ministers, who warned against actions that would "drag us back to the past", in the wake of serious rioting in Co Antrim at the weekend.

While there can be occasions when feelings may run high, violence and rioting is not the answer.

First Minister Peter Robinson

Up to 100 people gathered in Ballyclare on Saturday night, throwing petrol bombs and missiles at police.

Police say 15 vehicles were hijacked, including two buses. A number of these were set alight and used to attack police lines.

Five officers were hurt when a police vehicle was rammed with one of the hijacked buses. Another officer was injured when he was hit with stones.

The trouble erupted after local police removed a number of flags outside a Catholic church in the Grange Drive and Doagh Road areas of the town earlier in the day.

Justice Minister David Ford said local officers had acted entirely in accordance with the flags protocol.

ACC Finlay said there was no excuse for the violence but apologised to those who felt they were let down by the PSNI.

"I apologised to them (community leaders and political representatives) because they gave me certain information which showed we might have been able to do a better job," he explained on Monday.

Loyalists are being blamed for the violence, which spread to other areas in south Antrim in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Cars were hijacked and burned in Carrickfergus. Trouble was also reported in Larne and in Newtownabbey.

Fresh trouble erupted on Sunday night in Dundonald where a number of youths set fire to road barriers and a large tyre on the main carriageway.

A petrol bomb was thrown at a police vehicle, as officers responded to the disorder.

An attempt was also made to hijack a vehicle in the area at around 2.50am on Monday. The van received damage to the front windscreen, as the driver managed to steer it away.

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

Justice Minister David Ford

Speaking ahead of Tuesday's Twelfth of July parades, Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness have urged people from all communities to "step back and think" before taking part in further violence.

"I call upon everyone to take a step back and think of the consequences before doing something which you will later regret," Mr Robinson said.

"We must not allow the progress that has been made to be thwarted by those who want to drag us back to the past. We are determined to build a better and brighter future for all in Northern Ireland."

Mr McGuinness said: "There is no doubt however that we have come a long way.

"Only last month in my home city of Derry there was a coming together of two traditions as one community in a symbol of hope and togetherness with the opening of the Peace Bridge which spans the Foyle. We can all take inspiration from this.

"Issues surrounding a small number of contentious parades need to be resolved. I call on elected representatives, community leaders and indeed everyone in positions of authority within local communities to use their influence wisely this summer."

Last week trouble also flared across Lurgan and Craigavon, Co Armagh.

A number of vehicles were burnt out during several evenings of disorder, with masked gunmen reportedly involved.

The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister said it has been carrying out extensive work alongside community leaders in recent weeks to identify and maintain calm in potential flashpoints.

Police also say they have been working in communities to maintain order.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
65 Comments
Eoin in Vatican City wrote (1,198 days ago):
Hahahaha Dannys a comedian union and ulster flags are an expression of culture but when you display an irish tricolor its offensive heres the thing im not offended by the union or ulster flag but im highly offended by flags glorifiying a bunch of murdering terrorist drug dealing thugs ie uvf and uda and rhc its always amusing to hear protestants whine about republican terrorists yet they have no problem glorifying protestant terrorists orange order blame mtv for loyalist rioting lol you couldnt make it up
Eoin in Vatican City wrote (1,198 days ago):
Loyalists are only loyal when it suits them whats loyal about attacking the police or attacking the brittish army on the springfeild road a couple of years ago when they didnt get to march by catholic homes they were shooting at the british army lolol hypocrites springs to mind :)
pauline in belfast wrote (1,198 days ago):
thomas there has not been bonfire in catholic areas for years now and i mean years if orange men want to march then they should PAY for the policing and prods should pay for the clean up after bonfires and if catholics had bonfires they should pay for the clean up as well but they dont and as for the police apologising for the way they took uvf flags down.....there is only one way to take a flag down... climb up take it down and thats it. did those who were upset want the cops to do it a different way!!!! nothing changes crucify the catholics and apologise to the protestants still the same old RUC working hand in hand with sinn fein
ANGRY TAX PAYER in belfast wrote (1,199 days ago):
@Thomas... Yes it applies to ALL sad knuckle dragging morons who use the excuse of 'tradition' or 'culture' to inflict the cost of their sectarianism and bigotry on the silent majority.... ALL whether orange, green, or any other colour. If you truely believe in whatever you are 'celebrating then be prepared to pay for it yourself...
TOM in newry wrote (1,199 days ago):
what is this world coming to when the police say sorry to terrorists for removing their flags of shame. when r they going to say sorry to the 100s of families they left without fathers,mothers, brothers and sisters? all flags should b banned in the 6 counties as well as marches til people start to recognise that other people share this very tiny part of the planet when marches dont need to b policed we wil b on the right road to peace here
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