Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland leaders unite to condemn Derry disorder as questions raised of PSNI response

By Mark Edwards

Political leaders have united to condemn the violence in Londonderry as questions are asked about the PSNI's response to disorder compared with that in Belfast.

Shots were fired at police in Derry in what was described by the PSNI as a "blatant bid to murder police" on Tuesday night.

Around sixteen petrol bombs and five paint bombs were thrown from the Bogside area.

Chief Constable George Hamilton blamed dissident republicans for attempting to murder police in Londonderry.

He added: "Ripping own communities apart, criminalising their own young people. We will do all within the law and bring offenders to justice."

The leaders of the main political parties issued a joint statement to condemn the violence and appeal for calm- saying the shots fired at officers were a "clear and obvious attempt to murder police officers".

The statement was signed by the SDLP, DUP, Sinn Fein, UUP, Alliance and the Green Party.

So called loyalist expressing their culture and tradition- not reflective of vast majority of great people in east Belfast. George Hamilton

Police were also attacked early on Wednesday morning after the east Belfast Bloomfield Walkway bonfire was set alight following a court ruling to drastically reduce the height of the pyre.

A large policing operation was put in place with officers in riot gear called to the scene as the Fire Service tried to protect nearby homes.

The chief constable described the disorder as an "unfortunate display of reckless behaviour"

"So called loyalist expressing their culture and tradition- not reflective of vast majority of great people in east Belfast."

UUP councillor Jim Rodgers, speaking on the BBC's Stephen Nolan show, questioned the difference in response from police to the two situations.

"One of the issues that has been raised with me overnight by many people is the difference between policing in the city of Belfast and in Londonderry," he said.

"[Again] we have had petrol bomb attacks coming from the Bogside into the Protestant area [Fountain estate].

"People are crying out for help, there is very few riot police being seen in the Maiden City but in east Belfast we had at least 40 Land Rovers throughout the area- upwards of 200 police officers.

"I am a big supporter of the police, I am a member of the Belfast Police and Community Safety Partnership, there has to be impartial policing otherwise the community loses confidence."

PSNI assistant chief constable Alan Todd told the Belfast Telegraph: “Decisions on police operations and response are based on a wide range of facts and information available to us and our primary aim is always to be appropriate and proportionate.

"The public will not be privy to the vast amount of information we consider and the decision making model we use based on threat, risk and harm.

"Neither will the public be aware of the significant covert resources deployed by police in certain situations to keep people safe. The public should, however, rest assured that our response will always be based on the ultimate aim of keeping everyone safe, both the public and police officers who are work tirelessly to ensure the safety of all.”

There has been more disorder in Londonderry (Niall Carson/PA)

In their statement, the Northern Ireland political leaders called for an end to the violence in Derry.

“Attacks on the police have been on-going for a number of days alongside other violence including sectarian attacks on houses, petrol bombs thrown at the police, intimidation of contractors, vehicles hi-jacked and attacks on sheltered accommodation," they wrote.

“The shots fired last night were a clear and obvious attempt to murder police officers. There must be a strong, clear and united voice against those who would engage in such disgraceful violence.

“As a society we must all stand with those who maintain law and order and who protect all sides of our community.

“We condemn any illegal activity and and urge those who are damaging their own community and intimidating their neighbours to stop. We would urge people to work with the Police to bring those involved in criminality to justice.

“We want to see a society where people can live together without the threat of intimidation or violence.

"Those who engage in such tactics must be shown that they will not succeed.”

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