Belfast Telegraph

Leaders condemn street violence

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have condemned the most serious rioting in Northern Ireland for years.

They also spoke out against a separate bomb attack aimed at police in west Belfast.

Police said dissident republicans were suspected of firing live rounds which injured three people, while the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) had orchestrated the trouble.

Mr Robinson said: "At this time when many are working hard to build a better and brighter future for all in Northern Ireland, it is disappointing and deeply concerning to see this level of violence return to our streets."

He added: "We have given clear commitments to continue to deliver progress for all within the community including in those areas most at need. This type of behaviour damages the local economy and unfairly mars the reputation of the community."

Mr McGuinness said: "A small minority of individuals are clearly determined to destabilise our communities. They will not be allowed to drag us back to the past.

"I call on all those involved to take a step back and to remain calm. I support the efforts of community leaders on all sides who have been working on the ground to restore calm in east Belfast."

Loyalist community workers blamed simmering tensions at the notorious sectarian interface for the sudden upsurge in violence. But other observers blamed rivalries inside the UVF, fuelled by anger at restrictions placed on contentious parades, plus the efforts of police to probe crimes from the Troubles as part of an ongoing review of cases by the Historical Enquiries Team.

The UVF is one of the biggest loyalist groups and, despite having observed a ceasefire and having decommissioned its weapons, it was blamed for a murder last year. A paramilitary watchdog found that the UVF's leadership sanctioned what was branded the "public execution" of loyalist Bobby Moffett, who was shot dead in front of shoppers on Belfast's Shankill Road.

But the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) stopped short of recommending government sanction of the UVF.

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