Minister 'disturbed' by trouble
Published 03/08/2007 | 07:40
The Stormont minister under pressure to withhold funding earmarked for loyalist communities last night condemned UDA violence in Bangor.
SDLP Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie said she was "deeply disturbed" at the apparent use of guns against the police.
"The PSNI should be able to go about their duties without fear of threat of violence against them. Guns have no place in the peaceful society we are trying to create," she said.
"I am very concerned at reports of UDA involvement in these serious disturbances, and I will want to consider the PSNI's assessmemt at the earliest opportunity."
She was speaking after Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde said UDA thugs who opened fire on police should be denied the controversial £1m funding package Ms Ritchie controls.
Sir Hugh said: "If you want my personal opinion, I wouldn't give them 50p."
A 200-strong mob wreaked havoc in the Kilcooley housing estate on Wednesday night, hurling petrol bombs, stones and fireworks at police lines.
Police also said seven shots were fired at a PSNI Landrover by a UDA gunman.
But local community worker Mark Gordon claimed no shots were fired and has demanded forensic reports into the incident. It is understood six civilians were struck by plastic bullets fired by the police during the violent confrontation.
The trouble was sparked after police raided 11 properties in the loyalist estate on Wednesday morning.
More searches were carried out yesterday.
Some of the homes which were searched are understood to belong to people with links to the UDA in east Belfast.
Local residents say mourners attending a funeral were refused access to their homes during the police operation on Wednesday.
An angry Hugh Orde, who shared a public handshake with UDA leader Jackie McDonald earlier this year, slammed the organisation.
He said: "It's not good enough for the UDA to say it's going to deliver a final solution. This was organised criminality by the UDA. It's the second time in two weeks my officers have come under fire.
"I have spoken to officers and I am clear and they are clear they came under fire. It was the UDA and they should be held to account. They should wise up and get their act together."
The top cop questioned a £1.2m funding package recently offered to the UDA by the government.
He added: "If you are looking for funding, then you need to give something in return. If you want my personal opinion, I would not give them 50p.
"They need to make it clear they condemn criminal activity."
Mr Orde voiced concerns over whether the UDA leaders have "control or don't want to control their people" and pledged to track down those behind Wednesday night's riots.
Mr Orde also said he had no regrets about meeting the UDA leader Jackie McDonald.
He added: "We are prepared to speak to anyone who is prepared to make a difference. It's right to give them that opportunity. I would do it again."
Secretary of State Shaun Woodward also condemned the violence.
He said: "Once again, some of those within loyalism are guilty of self-destructive violence, bringing fear and disruption to their own community.
"It is beyond belief that the very people who have been calling for resolute police action against criminal elements in their midst should respond with extreme violence when this occurs and then attempt to justify their behaviour. There can be no ambiguity or excuse for this appalling situation.
"Attacks on the police are totally unacceptable. They must stop immediately."
Policing Board Chairman Desmond Rea branded the violence "mindless" .
He said: "On behalf of the board, I utterly condemn the violent attacks on police in Bangor and am relieved that no officers were seriously injured. These are the kinds of scenes that we want to see firmly confined to history, our community has moved on.
"Mindless violence like this achieves nothing but disorder, fear in the community and the diversion of police resources which could be used elsewhere."
The Policing Board boss says he intends to quiz Mr Orde about the Bangor riots at the next board meeting.
How the violence unfolded in Bangor
9.30am: Several Land Rovers containing police officers arrive in Kilcooley and begin a series of house searches. Included in the raids are the homes of known UDA men
11.30am: Mourners who have been attending a funeral complain about how they have been treated at one of the houses where searches are taking place
5pm: Officers who return to carry out further searches are stoned by a crowd of local residents in the Owenroe Drive area. Community leaders appeal to the PSNI to withdraw so they can attempt to calm tensions
8pm: Officers begin stopping cars on the Clandeboye Road
8.30pm: A hostile crowd gathers at the Clandeboye Road and start pelting officers with missiles including petrol bombs. The crowd swells to around
200 people and serious street disorder erupts
12am: A meeting is held between senior police officers and community representatives
12.30am: The crowd disperses. Community leaders remain in the area until 5.30am to ensure no further violence breaks out
Community in frank PSNI talks
By Ashleigh Wallace
Community representatives from a troubled Bangor housing estate have held a " frank and open" discussion with the local police chiefs following violence which erupted after a series of police raids were carried out.
Local MP Sylvia Hermon and representatives from the North Down Impact scheme were among a delegation which met senior officers at the PSNI's Bangor station yesterday.
A crowd of up to 200 people pelted officers with petrol and paint bombs on the Clandeboye Road area of the Kilcooley estate on Wednesday evening.
The violence erupted after 14 homes on the estate - some of which are occupied by known UDA men - were raided.
Last night, tensions in the area remained high with Land Rovers lining the battle-scarred Clandeboye Road.
Small groups of residents gathered on the street, watching officers carry out searches at the scene of the trouble.
Community leaders have appealed for calm and expressed the hope that no further violence will erupt.
Jim Martin from the North Down Impact Project said: "I have lived in this estate for 36 years and I have never seen a police presence like I did on Wednesday.
"People on the ground have expressed sadness and anger at what happened. The relationship this community has with the police has never been better and nobody seems to understand why the PSNI acted in the way they did when crime figures are down in this area.
"It is my understanding that the only thing found during the raids was a piece of cannabis worth under £10. A vast majority of people are baffled and bewildered about what happened on Wednesday, including the rioting.
"There is no justification for the violence or for those involved in the rioting to take out their anger at the police by burning their neighbours' cars."
Kilcooley Community Forum development worker Mark Gordon said he hoped that Wednesday's events would not affect the "excellent relationship" the community has with the local PSNI.
He said: "From a community development point of view, we are knocked down but not knocked out.
"We hope our excellent relationship with the PSNI will continue and we hope what happened will not destroy the work that has been done to build up that relationship over the years."
One resident - whose home was raided in her absence on Wednesday afternoon - said her house was left in a "terrible state".
The 21-year-old mother of one from Balligan Gardens, who asked not to be named, revealed that a piece of paper left by the PSNI bore her address - but also contained the name of a previous tenant who had moved out over three years ago. The woman denied having any links to the UDA.
She said: "I went out shopping and, when I came back at 5pm, there were a load of police standing outside my house.
"In the time I was out, my front door had been kicked in by the police and a temporary lock put on by the Housing Executive.
"My two-year-old son burst into tears when he saw all the police at our house. I had child locks on all my kitchen cupboards but they were ripped clean off. One of the upstairs bedrooms was a mess and there were clothes thrown everywhere. My house has been left in a terrible state."
Local MP Sylvia Hermon, who attended yesterday's meeting with the PSNI, described talks held with senior officers as "very positive".
She said: "I'm utterly disgusted that loyalists could direct such vicious violence towards police officers. It is unacceptable.
"After spending time in Kilcooley, I have been made aware that mourners leaving from one of the homes that was searched were disrupted and insensitive comments were made by the police.
"Deaths and funerals are very traumatic in any circumstance and I have suggested to the police that a face-to-face apology should be made to the people involved.
"What happened on Wednesday was an awful shock to me and I'm sure an overwhelming majority of the people in Kilcooley did not support the violence and never want to see such scenes again."