Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Campbell accuses Catholic bishop of giving justification to rioters

By Gillian Halliday

Gregory Campbell has criticised a Catholic bishop for sending out the "wrong message" to rioters behind violence in Londonderry as the PSNI welcomed a return to calm at the weekend.

The DUP MP claimed Bishop Donal McKeown was attempting to "justify" the perpetrators' actions with comments the clergyman made at a rally attended by hundreds of people on Friday in a show of solidarity against those behind the trouble.

Over six consecutive nights more than 70 petrol bombs and two blast bombs were thrown by youths - some of them as young as eight - at police officers, who were also targeted by gunfire near the city's walls last Thursday.

According to PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton, the incidents were orchestrated by the so-called New IRA.

At the rally Bishop McKeown said there were people who felt "left out" of the political progress over the past 20 years.

"Some communities that suffered much in the past are still suffering disadvantage," he said.

"There are young people who feel life is passing them by and looking down on them."

Bishop McKeown made similar comments during BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence programme yesterday.

In response, Mr Campbell said that however "well meaning" Bishop McKeown is, the cleric's message could be interpreted as giving the rioters a "rationale" for their actions by calling for them not to be "demonised" because of their "disadvantages".

"Right across the community, we need to continue to attract investment for people irrespective of where they live or what background they are from," said the MP.

"At the same time, we must give no grounds whatsoever for a belief that law breakers have cover from someone trying to explain their motives in a way they can take justification from."

Mr Campbell's comments came as his party leader Arlene Foster met with people from the Fountain estate on Saturday.

Homes in the Protestant enclave were targeted by rioters last week.

Writing on Twitter, she said she was "so proud of the community spirit".

Her visit coincided with that of the Republic's Foreign Affairs Minister, Tanaiste Simon Coveney, who met police and residents from the Bogside, as well as the Unity of Purpose group, which promotes peace in the city.

Within hours of their visits PSNI Chief Inspector Alan Hutton pledged that more arrests would be made over the coming days.

"I would like to thank all those who have given their support to the end of the violence in our city, and I hope that we can all move forward from this point to a continued return to normality," he added.

A 22-year-old man arrested at the weekend is due to appear at Omagh Magistrates Court today to face a number of offences, including three counts of possession of explosives with intent to endanger life.

A 17-year-old male will also appear today on charges of possession of petrol bombs in suspicious circumstances, riotous behaviour and throwing petrol bombs.

Meanwhile, a 16-year-old male arrested in connection to the violence was released unconditionally on Saturday.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph