DUP delegation meets police over interface gang fight fears
A DUP delegation met the PSNI yesterday over tensions in north Belfast interface areas.
More than 40 youths reportedly gathered near the Waterworks area on Tuesday and Wednesday, armed with improvised weapons including a crowbar and copper piping.
MLA William Humphrey attended Tennent Street police station alongside councillors Naomi Thompson, Brian Kingston and the recently co-opted Dale Pankhurst to discuss the incidents.
According to Mr Humphrey, there was also a large presence of youths on Thursday evening, but police attended the area and no trouble occurred.
He claimed the incidents were sectarian.
"On Tuesday evening a large group of nationalist youths entered the Westland estate armed with improvised weapons, and there was further trouble on Wednesday when nationalist youths came up through the Waterworks towards the Westland estate," he said.
"Only the deployment of PSNI Tactical Support Group officers along with the police helicopter prevented more serious trouble occurring.
"On Thursday evening youths gathered in the Castleton area, off the Antrim Road, but the PSNI maintained a presence iand no trouble resulted.
"Whilst the PSNI believe that the trouble this week is probably connected to the school half-term holidays and included attempts to arrange fights through social media, they agree with our assessment that there is a sectarian element to the gathering of these youths and the intimidation they have caused to residents."
He said his delegation's meeting with police had been useful, adding: "My party colleagues and I appreciate the measures the police have taken this week to prevent the situation from escalating and we urged them to maintain a high profile on the ground over the weekend.
"We reiterate our call for young people to stay away from interfaces, to show more respect for residents whom they are intimidating, and we urge parents and all people of influence to help bring these gatherings and incidents to an end."
A large group of young people gathered in the surrounding area last month, when a fire was started in the nearby Waterworks Park and stones were thrown at a police car. An ambulance also attended in response to a "highly-intoxicated" 13-year-old girl.
PSNI Inspector Paul Noble said: "We're aware these confrontations were arranged via social media. I appeal to parents to know where their children are and play a role in preventing them from becoming involved."