Loyalists blamed for Portadown riot

Published Saturday, 16 July 2011
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A 100-strong crowd of loyalists were behind rioting that took place in Portadown on Friday night, police have said.

Two men have been charged with riotous behaviour in connection with the serious public disorder at the interface area between Corcrain Road and Obins Drive in the Co Armagh town.

Officers came under sustained attack from paint bombs, petrol bombs and other missiles - sledge hammers were also used to damage armoured PSNI vehicles.

A total of 19 plastic baton rounds were fired during the trouble which continued into the early hours of the morning.

No police and no members of the public were injured.

Three arrests were made. A 24-year-old man has been charged with riotous behaviour and criminal damage, while another - aged 42 - faces those counts plus possession of a weapon.

A third man aged 20 was charged with disorderly behaviour, resisting police and assault on police - he was arrested in the area but isn't directly linked to the disturbances.

It is believed social network sites and mobile phones were used to gather people from outside the area for what was originally planned to be a peaceful protest by residents over the removal of loyalist flags.

"Police received information that loyalists intended to lead a peaceful protest," Superintendent Jason Murphy said.

"The peaceful event did indeed take place but that quickly descended into disorder. It was clear from very early that there was a number within that group who were intent on violence from the outset."

Reverend Ken Robinson, who was in the area trying to calm things down, said the trouble was a reaction to nationalists allegedly having been allowed to remove the flags.

"I do believe further up the road in the Corcrain estate that a number of flags were removed on Thursday night," he told UTV.

"The allegation is that nationalists removed them and the police allowed them to remove them - but whatever the justification, there is no excuse for last night."

As the violence continued into the night, police advised motorists to avoid the Corcrain and Ballyoran areas, Obins Drive, Union Street and surrounding areas.

Sinn Féin MLA John O'Dowd said loyalists tried to attack nationalist homes during the disorder.

"What is known is that around 100 loyalists attacked police and attempted to attack nationalist homes in the Portadown area over several hours," he said.

"I would appeal for calm to return to the streets of Portadown. I'm in no doubt that the vast majority of people, whether they are from the unionist or nationalist community want to see an end to this trouble. They want to see order restored and they want to be able to get on with their lives."

However the DUP's Upper Bann MP David Simpson refuted Mr O'Dowd's comments, saying fireworks had been directed at Protestant homes in the area.

"The initial rioting was provoked by nationalists firing missiles and removing union flags from mainly unionist areas," Mr Simpson said.

"The violence on Friday evening will not stop such unprovoked attacks from nationalists, the rioting only serves to disrupt and deface the locality. I know many elderly people living in the area where living in fear last night and did not endorse this violence. Such scenes must be condemned."

A PSNI statement said: "No homes within the nationalist community were directly attacked although we are aware of some damage being caused from missiles thrown into the area of Obins Street."

Upper Bann Alliance councillor Sheila McQuaid called the trouble "deeply damaging" for the local area.

"I am disgusted at the activities of those involved in this disorder," she said.

"I would appeal for people to act responsibly. This type of incident is deeply damaging and we need to ensure stability to help us grow our economy."

Police have come under attack across parts of Northern Ireland in the past week.

Rioting already broke out in Portadown on Wednesday night, this time in the Garvaghy Road area.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning two police officers were injured after trouble also erupted in the Craigwell Avenue and Obin Street areas of the town.

A PSNI operation is planned for Saturday night to prevent any repeat of Friday's rioting.

"Despite the violence against my officers last night, I can assure the public of Portadown that we remain steadfast in our determination to work with all communities to make Portadown safe," a statement added.

"The law abiding people of Portadown want to see peace, harmony and most of all prosperity and we stand ready as a police service to play our part."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
88 Comments
Stephen in Portadown wrote (1,221 days ago):
When asking why Unionist burn the Tricolour on top of bonfires would it not also be prudent to ask why Nationalists burn Union and Ulster flags etc. from their bonfires in August?
Tom in belfast wrote (1,221 days ago):
" I think you should take a look at what was happening in the Catholic church and how many dirty old men were abusing little children and then ask yourself is this why the Order found a reason to deter its members entering that church " Do you know when the OO was founded lorna? Was it just recently? Did they also find a reason to deter their membership from entering Dr Paisleys Free Pres. churches then when they found out about prominent orange man William McGrath and Kincora? There are approx 1 Billion Catholics in the world and of these there are approx 1 million Catholic clergy. Going by statistics alone there are bound to be many of these cases. This is a societal problem not one just for the Catholic church.
Tom in belfast wrote (1,222 days ago):
Maggie, where did you learn your history? Sorry, stupid question. You didn't. "The Orange Order was formed out of necessity. The Roman Catholic church and mixed marriages ......." In the name of.......What utter nonsense! Ever hear of the peep o day boys? Or the battle of the diamond? I suggest you read more carefully, contributions by people such as Joan as she at least has some grasp on history whereas you have none.
Tom in belfast wrote (1,222 days ago):
Lorna. We get these "facts" of yours thrust on us every year. What has whats happening in the Catholic church got to do with sectarian marches by the Orange Order? Batisms, now they I'm sure should be defended by attacking Catholic neighbours each year. What have the Shankill butchers LOL, the UVF and UDA Marchalls to do with a religious procession? Catch yourself on, we're not all mugs you know. There have been sectarian riots and pograms associated with these "religious"expressions for generations and that is the undeniable facts no burying your head in the sand or weasle words will provide excuses for or solace to. As for the Union flag. I look forward to the burning of the unofficial NI flags or Ulster flags as well as the UVF, UDA ones as well. yeah right!
maggie in limavady wrote (1,222 days ago):
Joan. quite a script from you. Were did you study history ? From a Republican manuscript . You have great hate for the Orange Order and there are many facts you describe that are false. The Orange Order was formed out of necessity. The Roman Catholic church and mixed marriages would have given cause to protect the Protestant right to bring up children in the faith of the Protestant parent. as you would be aware the RC church says that unbaptised babies will go to hell and the rush was on the get the child baptised and the promise they would have had to make to the Roman Catholic church beforehand. The Church itself was to blame. I believe the Order stands for a faith that is founded to the Bible and in no way to blame for all the wrongs you associate with it.
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