Belfast Telegraph

'Nothing can be built with petrol bombs' - Hundreds attended Londonderry peace rally

Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown called for an end to the violence that has plagued the city over the last week when addressing a solidarity rally on Friday.

There has been six consecutive nights of violent disorder, with several attempts to murder police officers both with guns and bomb-like devices.

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said that the dissident republican group the 'New IRA' are behind the attacks.

On Thursday night trouble broke out in the city's republican Bogside area with 74 petrol bombs thrown at police and residents.

The PSNI took the decision to fire four plastic baton rounds during the disorder.

The Protestant Fountain estate has also been targeted in the attacks.

Hundreds of people gathered in the Fahan Street area of Derry on Friday evening including community leaders and representatives from across the political spectrum.

The Bishop acknowledged that tensions had been running high in the city after a week of unrest.

"The last week has been a very stressful time for many in this community. Emotions have been running high. Angry words have been used on various sides," Bishop McKeown said.

"Those of us in comparatively comfortable positions of leadership need to remember that a lot of our fellow citizens feel left out. They do not see the last twenty years as having benefitted them. Some communities that suffered much in the past are still suffering disadvantage. There are young people who feel life is passing them by and looking down on them.

"But if there is one lesson that the people of this city have learned over the years, it is that violence and destruction do not help anyone. They do not advance any cause. We have discovered that talking is the only way that builds people up. Destruction and aggression end up damaging the very communities that some people claim to be defending. You cannot claim to love your country – and, at the same time, cause pain and destruction to the people who live there. All who live here are part of this country. All deserve to be cherished equally."

The Bishop called on people to come together and build a city where everyone feels comfortable.

"Tonight we have gathered, not to condemn anyone, but to build bridges. We want a city where everyone feels they have a future. We have lost too many people because they had lost hope in the future. We believe that we have the human resources to create a community where all our fellow citizens feel included. We believe that everyone here has something unique and valuable to contribute to a better future," Bishop McKeown said.

"Those of us who have gathered here have come because we love this city and all its people. We seek the welfare of all. But we are determined that this great city will not be drawn back into a repetition of the terrible years of awful suffering and loss. We will speak out against those who promote only destruction and despair. Nothing can be built with petrol bombs or stones thrown in anger. The foundation for a happy future will be built on dialogue and inclusion.

"Tonight, on behalf of so many in our city, I say:

The people of Derry deserve better than violence;

The people of Derry are capable of so much better than violence;

The people of Derry are proud of their city and want to welcome people here, not frighten them off.

In the city of the three bridges, can we start mending bridges tonight and walking forward together?"

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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