Belfast Telegraph

Police chief: Riots a wake up call

Serious rioting that erupted in Belfast is a wake-up call that must see efforts redoubled to secure a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, the region's chief constable has said.

Matt Baggott said the violence in the east of city, which saw three people shot, was deeply worrying and vowed to bring those responsible to justice.

But he stressed that the unrest was localised and not reflective of present day Northern Ireland, saying: "It's a sadness that this has happened.

"We take two steps forward, we take one step back. We should recognise that in some places the peace is fragile and it's a wake-up call to us all to redouble our efforts to make sure that we do make Northern Ireland a safer and more prosperous place that everybody wants."

Mr Baggott spent much of the morning briefing members of his oversight body - the Northern Ireland Policing Board - on the riots at a notorious interface between loyalist and republicans neighbourhoods. "Let's be clear, the last few nights were very concerning," he said afterwards.

"But they (the disturbances) were local, the sight of armoured Land Rovers dealing with petrol bombs, and taking that to stop the conflict escalating, is something we haven't seen for quite some time.

"But the reality of Northern Ireland is day in day out, if you go to many communities, you'll find enormous hope, enormous good work being done and some great policing taking place, so let's not lose perspective, it's been worrying, difficult, but the truth is Northern Ireland has a great future, if we just make sure that we keep working at it harder and harder."

After two nights of sustained unrest, yesterday east Belfast was relatively trouble-free. Talks between community representatives were credited for restoring order while the power-sharing executive's First Minister and Deputy First Minister have pledged to investigate the main interface concerns.

But there are now growing fears of further rioting over the summer marching season. Mr Baggott said the key to a peaceful summer was dialogue.

He said: "There's too much at stake here. Northern Ireland has a great future, it's a wonderful place, we've got great plans for policing, we're more accessible, more visible, we've got the lowest crime for decades, the lowest road deaths for decades, policing within communities it wasn't before, doing good things - let's not put that at risk. And that's the talking that has to take place over the next few weeks."

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