Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein MP slams violence at bonfire

By Adrian Rutherford

A Sinn Fein MP has criticised republicans who held an anti-internment bonfire following a night of violence which left eight police officers injured.

The PSNI was attacked by crowds throwing paint bombs, bottles and masonry as trouble flared in the Divis area of west Belfast from Thursday night. At one stage officers in the New Lodge were threatened with a sword. In a separate incident, two teenagers were stabbed at an internment bonfire in the north of the city.

Trouble erupted in the Divis area on Thursday night and continued through the early hours of yesterday morning.

Two of the eight injured officers needed hospital treatment.

Police said eight arrests were made for public order offences. A number of nearby streets were closed for several hours. A PSNI spokesman said: "A thorough investigation is now under way to identify all those involved in the disorder."

The Divis bonfire was built to mark the anniversary of the introduction of internment without trial in 1971.

Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey said it was organised by anti-social elements within the community and should not have been held.

"A lot of people involved in this bonfire are anti-community and are on a daily basis making life miserable for the people in the Lower Falls area," he said.

"Bonfires such as these need to be left in the past. The majority of the community have moved on and see these fires as an excuse for anti-social activity including drinking, drug-taking and abusing residents.

"They have nothing to do with commemorating internment or political struggle. At the same time there are a number of young people who do collect wood for these bonfires that are not involved with the more sinister criminal elements."

The two teenagers were taken to hospital after they were stabbed at a bonfire in the Torrens Link area. The 16-year-old boy's condition is described as "serious but stable". The 15-year-old girl's injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

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