70 arrests over flag vote violence

Published Sunday, 06 January 2013
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Seventy people have been arrested - and 52 PSNI officers injured - since trouble broke out in Northern Ireland following the Belfast council vote to only fly the Union Flag outside City Hall on designated days.

70 arrests over flag vote violence
PSNI officers deal with public disorder on the Albertbridge Road on Saturday. (© Pacemaker)

Fifty of those detained have since been charged.

On Sunday, following a third night of loyalist rioting in east Belfast, PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott commended the tireless courage of his officers during what he described as a "very difficult" time.

A police statement said that street violence began on Saturday at 2.50pm when officers were confronted by a number of people on the Newtownards Road.

"Police were then attacked by a crowd of over 100 people throwing petrol bombs fireworks, smoke cannisters, bricks and other masonry. Laser pens were also directed at officers' faces. Water cannon were then deployed," the statement continued.

"Later in the afternoon police arrested a 38-year-old man on suspicion of attempted murder after reports that shots had been fired."

The PSNI said the disorder was contained at around 6pm, however, it reignited a short time later at 7.30pm in the Albertbridge, Castlereagh Street and Templemore Avenue areas.

"Three AEP 'baton rounds' were fired during the disturbances and one officer was injured. Seven people were arrested," the statement confirmed.

Reports of cars being set on fire at Templemore Avenue, Albertbridge Road, Newtownards Road and Lord Street were also received by police.

It is understood that cars were hijacked in the Ballymacarret area and on the Newtownards Road. A bus was hijacked in the east of the city.

You may be assured there will be sufficient resources in the event of more disorder for however long is necessary.

PSNI chief Constable Matt Baggott

Mr Baggott said: "The Police Service will continue to do everything possible to maintain law and order and we will deal firmly with outbreaks of violence.

"As you have seen in the last few days we will continue to apprehend and put people before the courts."

Meanwhile, police searches took place at St Patrick's Walk in east Belfast on Sunday.

Elsewhere, community, political and religious leaders met in the afternoon at a church in the area to discuss the latest outbreak of violence.

Michael Copeland, UUP MLA for East Belfast, attended the meeting and said the scale of the trouble was very hard to quantify.

"I've spent a lot of time on the ground. I've seen my constituency yet again subjected to violence, civil disorder.

"I've seen public and private property destroyed and I've seen police officers injured. I've seen civilians injured."

He continued: "I'm not sure the current attempt to stop the violence has actually worked. I think you've got to address the issues that are there below the surface."

Niall Ó Donnghaile, Sinn Féin councillor for the area, said there was "no doubt" violence came from both nationalists and loyalists on Saturday.

However, he added that reports of shots being fired on the loyalist side was "worrying" and had "left people on edge."

"I think given the violence, and the extent of the violence, that we saw yesterday here in east Belfast, people want it to stop and people are calling out for political leadership, particularly from within the Unionist community, to get a grip on things and make this stop."

Meanwhile, Translink announced that public transport services in east Belfast was subject to diversion on Sunday evening due to planned protests.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
22 Comments
East Belfast in East Belfast wrote (651 days ago):
Police tactics are awful! Extremely badly trained and practised. Virtually nil situational awareness! i.e When the Short Strand population were hurling missiles at the Loyalist protestors on on route to their homes from the City Hall. Also I did learn that females in East Belfast were arrested, then heavily man handled by the police when they were merely at the assistance to a young boy who became caught up in a highly charged situation. For me the Police are lacking. They perhaps need to revise their tactics and create some new guidelines and policies and to make this new system available to the public. They (the PSNI) are not an anti terrorist police force anymore. They have lost a lot of respect and standing in a lot of areas. Community relations are damaged also as a consequence. Think. Assess. Act. PSNI dont.
Peter in Belfast wrote (652 days ago):
Lorna Lorna lorna. You never change do you? Fact: the UVF in East Belfast are behind the trouble there. Do you ever watch the news?
PEACE PLEACE in South Down wrote (653 days ago):
£4 million yes £4,000,000 cost the goverment so far over a flag im a catholic and i know protestants that r totally ashamed of whats happening !!!! Its 2013 do we want to go back to that crap people losing there lives !!! We only get one chance of this place so make the most of it !!! Would wee not be better spending the money on protestant / catholic familys ie community centres £4 million put a few up !!! For Gods sake stop this please ! I live out in the country and no where near the trouble but one sure thing i dont want my kids brought up in this enviroment !! No flag worth that should it be a tricolour/union jack !! Pray for Peace !!!!
jimmymac in canada wrote (653 days ago):
@Lorma in Limavady, John in Belfast, is saying the truth he is right, and you are terrible wrong in you comment, In case you didn't know some members of the infamous RUC, acted like (South American) shadowy death squads, when it was alleges that they colluded with loyalist terrorist.And also Lorma why do you have such a distressing habit of always blaming Sinn Fein,when ever things go wrong, they are working hard for all sides and all traditions. Happy New year but please stop being so negative... for 2013... cheers
David in Spain wrote (654 days ago):
Well well well, where is Peter once upon a time super prod Robinson of the DUP. How many protests did he and his party lead before they came to power. To many protestant voters the flag issue is one of the last signs of being British. Robinson should now call for new elections to get rid of the Allience party for good and the only party standing up for their community the TUV will see themselves at the house on the hill. A lesson should have been learned when the DUP called the Ulster Unionist party traitors for talking to the IRA. People need leadership and a strong voice to defend the faith.
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