Four face court after football riots
Published 30/03/2009 | 03:13
Four men are due in court today charged in connection with the football riots on the streets of Belfast at the weekend which left 11 police officers injured.
The men, aged 22, 26, 28 and 30 and understood to be Polish nationals, have been charged with disorderly behaviour. The 26-year-old has also been charged with possession of fireworks without a licence.
All four will appear before Belfast Magistrates’ Court this morning.
Police are continuing to study CCTV footage in a bid to identify the football hooligans involved in the street battles that marred the build-up and aftermath of Northern Ireland’s crucial 3-2 victory over Poland at Windsor Park.
Officers are due to meet with IFA officials this week to try and find out what went wrong and to look to see if anything could have been done to prevent the clashes.
They will also discuss if additional security measures need to be introduced for future matches.
Nine people were arrested on Saturday after trouble at a bar in Bedford Street. Five were later released.
Rival fans fought with each other and clashed with riot police in sporadic confrontations across the city. Wetherspoons pub in Bedford Street was badly damaged when chairs were thrown through the window and Tates Avenue was sealed off as police came under attack from fireworks, traffic cones, bricks, bottles and other missiles.
A number of homes in east and south Belfast were also targeted in what police described as racially motivated attacks.
There was also trouble inside Windsor Park, with the match held up during the first half when assistant referee Stefan Wittberg was struck by a missile thrown from a crowd of Northern Ireland supporters.
Police have stressed that members of the Polish community living in Northern Ireland were not involved in the violence. PSNI Superintendent Chris Noble said the violence was down to a hard core of Polish nationals who came to the game from outside Northern Ireland without tickets but with “clear intent to cause trouble”.
Superintendent Noble said he was concerned about reprisal attacks against the local Polish community and appealed for calm.
UUP councillor Jim Rodgers said: “This trouble spoiled what was a brilliant result for Northern Ireland. It was the worst violence I have ever seen at international level.”
DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt condemned the violence and said that a “minority of the Polish support seemed intent on trouble”.
He added: “There can be no justification for any of the violence witnessed. I would commend all true Northern Ireland supporters for the restraint shown in the face of severe provocation. We have an impeccable record in terms of our own fans' behaviour both at home and abroad and I am sure that will continue.”
Alliance sports spokesman Councillor Michael Long said Saturday’s violence underlined the need for football offences laws to be introduced in Northern Ireland.
“This type of sickening behaviour wrecks things for the vast majority of fans who hate violent thugs. Violence before, during or after matches is a disturbingly regular occurrence here. It must stop and we need laws that give the authorities the chance to ban troublemakers from matches for good. Alliance has campaigned for many years for the introduction of football offences-style legislation here. Thugs must be apprehended, banned and stopped from wrecking people’s day in the future,” he said.