Belfast Telegraph

Belfast bonfire disorder: There will be arrests over unrest, police chief Hamilton vows

by Aaron Tinney

Northern Ireland's police chief has vowed to bring to justice those responsible for the disorder that saw his officers attacked and property torched in Belfast.

Children as young as 12 were caught on camera attacking police as gangs set cars and buildings ablaze in a republican bonfire protest on Monday night.

Last night, trouble briefly flared again after a car was set on fire on North Queen Street shortly after 10pm.

Debris had been cleared from the site of a controversial anti-internment bonfire in the New Lodge area yesterday morning, but had been quickly rebuilt by the afternoon.

A group of around 200 young people was seen gathering at the site shortly before the pyre was due to be set alight at midnight.

PSNI chief George Hamilton highlighted the need for parents to take responsibility for preventing violence largely perpetrated by youths.

Of Monday's rioters he said: "These were largely young people involved in causing destruction and mayhem in their own communities. There is absolutely no excuse, no justification for the burning of cars and the causing of destruction in people's own communities - it just doesn't make sense at any level."

Mr Hamilton insisted arrests would follow - although it is believed there have been none so far.

"We are gathering evidence and there will be arrests and those responsible for this behaviour will be brought to justice," he said.

"People engaged in this are responsible for their actions but parents have a responsibility too in all of this."

The PSNI is increasing patrols in nationalist areas of the city after youngsters helped petrol bomb-wielding thugs torch cars and an abandoned Credit Union building on Monday. Police were also pelted with petrol bombs, bricks and bottles.

The removal of wood from a bonfire site in the nationalist Markets area by Belfast City Council-hired contractors triggered the violent scenes. In rampaging that lasted several hours, vehicles were targeted with paint bombs, with at least three set on fire.

Rioters then turned on the police and firefighters with missiles hurled at officers and masked youths trying to hijack several buses on the Falls Road.

Trouble began after Belfast City Council officials removed bonfire material in the Markets area on Monday morning.

The confiscated stockpiles were to be used in nationalist areas to mark the anniversary of the controversial 1971 state introduction of internment without trial.

Secretary of State James Brokenshire said the disorder "damaged communities and the futures of those young people drawn into it".

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein's Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill denied her party's drive within the council to take action against dangerous bonfires stirred tensions among the young people who build them.

Mainstream republicans have distanced themselves from the bonfires, blaming anti-social elements.

Mrs O'Neill denied her party's actions in the council had exacerbated tensions and condemned those involved.

"The community don't want to see that action and it is the action of a small number of people. It is not something the community want to be involved with, it is not something that is a wider problem."

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