Belfast Telegraph

Man charged with attempted murder during Belfast riot

A man has been charged with attempted murder after a vehicle struck pedestrians during a riot in Belfast.

A teenage girl, 16, was trapped under the car and police and nationalist residents moved swiftly to manhandle it off the victim, who is in a stable condition in hospital.

A policeman who went to her aid was hit in the face by a bottle and lost a tooth, the Police Federation of Northern Ireland said.

Trouble flared after a loyal order parade was blocked from marching up a contested strip of North Belfast.

The suspect, 61, will appear in Belfast Magistrates' Court in the morning charged with two counts of attempted murder, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said.

A PSNI statement said: " A 61-year-old man has been charged with two counts of attempted murder and is due to appear at Belfast Magistrates' Court in the morning.

"As is usual procedure the charge will be reviewed by the Public Prosecution Service.

"The charges relate to an incident during which a vehicle struck pedestrians in the vicinity of Ardoyne shops in north Belfast last night, Monday 13th July."

Officers lifted the vehicle off the girl and gave first aid while separating missile-throwing loyalists from republicans in the north of the city.

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said: "I am just thankful today because many of us held our breath, and the fact that one of the girls has survived is to some extent remarkable.

"When we watched it many of us feared the worst and I am thankful that her injuries are reported as not life-threatening."

A n older woman suffered a suspected fractured wrist during the same incident, police said.

A Federation spokesman said the officer who led the team responsible for saving the girl was hit in the face with a bottle and lost a tooth and sustained a cut lip.

Twenty officers were hurt during trouble at the sectarian interface at Ardoyne after stopping an Orange Order parade marking the Twelfth of July, the highlight of the loyal order calendar.

A total of 15 remained on duty. Others were taken to hospital or received treatment. Nine arrests were made.

One inspector sustained a severed ear and another officer's finger was almost bitten off during sectarian disorder which prompted police to use water cannons and fire baton rounds, striking four people.

The Federation said 25 officers - constables, sergeants, one inspector and one chief inspector - were on the casualty list. One officer was treated for a suspected fractured skull. Another underwent surgery for a severed ear. Two were treated for concussion.

The Federation said: "Rioters used bricks, bottles and ball bearings as their 'weapons' against our colleagues. When they had nothing else, they resorted to fists and hair pulling."

Protective clothing including helmets and heavily reinforced suits protecting limbs prevented more serious injuries while a "Well Being Hub" - a well equipped, 16-bed, first-aid and triage centre - was established nearby.

The organisation added: "These are cold, hard statistics from a night of shame. Behind each one is a human story, of the understandable reaction at home whenever officers said they'd been bitten, struck by an object or punched."

PFNI chairman Mark Lindsay said his members had borne the brunt of frenzied attacks.

He said: "It really is very hard to imagine what goes through the minds of people as they launch vicious attacks on officers who are upholding a lawful determination or who try to bite off the finger of an officer.

"Some images of the evening will remain with me for a very long time including the injured inspector being pulled from the frontline to the relative safety of the rear of a Land Rover, the enormous effort of officers who lifted a car on its side to free a trapped teenage girl, the erection of protective grilles by local residents fearful of what might happen and the patient and professional work to restore order on the streets.

"It has always been and is still unacceptable for our officers to be subjected to such sustained violence at very close quarter."

Mr Martin said it was "regrettable" that loyalist demonstrators were not marshalled by members of the Order.

He said an officer's finger was almost bitten off but was saved by his motorcycle glove. It is believed he needed 12 stitches.

Shield-wielding members of the PSNI were pelted with bricks, bolts and bottles after preventing loyalists from marching from the unionist Woodvale area towards the nationalist Ardoyne.

Mr Martin said: "I would want to pay tribute to the officers who were under my leadership yesterday. They did a professional and brave job.

"At one stage they were in the middle of three opposing factions. They did their duty with courage and professionalism and the humanity of policing was shown very starkly when they, despite a number of them having been struck by the same car, manhandled that vehicle up on its side physically so that the young girl could be rescued and hopefully very important life-saving treatment rendered."

He said he had hoped for more effective marshalling of the parade.

"There was marshalling that occurred last year in north Belfast that did not occur this year in north Belfast, that is regrettable."

The senior officer said violence was not orchestrated by paramilitaries and blamed young people exploiting the tense situation.

He noted efforts by loyalist and republican community leaders, including Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly, to defuse tensions.

Unrest broke out at the end of a largely peaceful Twelfth of July Orange Order commemoration. Around 35 petrol bombs were thrown in Londonderry and a bus containing loyal order members was attacked at nearby Greysteel as it returned from an event.

The annual parades mark the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 but in Ardoyne have been a source of festering tension between some Protestants and Catholics.

Violence erupted after riot squad officers blocked access to a contested stretch of the Crumlin Road where Catholics and Protestants live in close proximity.

Mr Martin defended the police decision to keep part of the area open to traffic before the car hit the women and said officers aimed to keep routes clear for as long as possible to minimise obstruction to communities.

He said: "It was a very tense occasion last night, the police were looking in three directions (towards opposing factions)."

Mr Martin said he saw people of influence attempting to encourage loyalists to go home and appeals for calm heads by priests and politicians on the nationalist side. He claimed more could have been done by the Orange Order but accepted senior members did not want to see violence.

"Anybody who has the ability to influence the actions of others, the ability to influence others to act peacefully and within the law, should have a responsibility to exercise that influence and it is regrettable when people choose not to do so."

Police are investigating breaches of determinations designed to govern Orange Order marches, which allegedly happened as demonstrators paraded close to Catholic churches in north and east Belfast. Officers' handling of the Ardoyne demonstrations has been referred to the Police Ombudsman.

A massive security operation had been put in place at the sectarian flashpoint, which has been the scene of repeated rioting over many years.

The Government-appointed Parades Commission, which rules on contentious marches, had issued a determination barring Orangemen from part of the Crumlin Road.

Orangemen have called for the commission to be disbanded while nationalists have asked for more dialogue.

There was no rioting last year after Orangemen marshalled loyalist protesters but in 2013 - when restrictions were imposed on the parade for the first time - mass violence broke out in the Woodvale area.

Republicans have rioted in previous years when the parade was allowed to pass up the road returning from Belfast's main Twelfth commemoration in the south of the city.

Mr Kelly said people were "disappointed" the situation deteriorated into violence and appealed for community leadership.

A further six arrests were made for public order offences at another loyal order demonstration known as the Sham Fight in Scarva in Co Down on Tuesday. A total of two officers were injured.

Scarva is where William of Orange is said to have tied his horses on his way to the Boyne. The Sham Fight is a mock clash between "King William of Orange" and "King James" in full period costume.

The event is marked by Royal Black Institution loyal order marches.


From Belfast Telegraph