Belfast Telegraph

Police and Protestant order members targeted in Derry petrol bomb attacks

No-one was injured in the incident near the republican Bogside area.

Police officers were targeted in a Londonderry attack (Niall Carson/PA)
Police officers were targeted in a Londonderry attack (Niall Carson/PA)

By David Young, PA

Police and members of a Protestant loyal order came under attack by petrol bombers in a night of unrest in Londonderry.

Two petrol bombs were thrown at the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall in the city centre from the direction of the republican Bogside area as people who had taken part in a parade earlier in the day socialised inside.

No-one was injured but police who attended the scene were then also subjected to attack, with a further 15 to 20 petrol bombs and other missiles thrown at them from nearby Fahan Street.

A number of wooden pallets were then placed on the street and set alight. No officers were injured and calm was restored at about 1am.

The violence unfolded amid raised tensions in the city after a number of contentious incidents during the Apprentice Boys annual August parade on Saturday.

Police who deployed to the area to prevent further disorder were subsequently attacked by persons who threw 15 to 20 petrol bombs and other missiles in the area of Fahan Street. A number of pallets were also placed on the street and set on fire PSNI superintendent Gordon McCalmont

Members of a loyalist flute band are to be reported to prosecutors after wearing a Parachute Regiment symbol on their uniforms during the parade.

Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been using the symbol to show support for Soldier F – the veteran facing prosecution for two murders and four attempted murders on Bloody Sunday in Derry in January 1972.

A large number of police officers accompanied the Clyde Valley Flute Band, from Larne, Co Antrim, as it made its way through the city.

A bus carrying the band home was then stopped by police on the outskirts of the city. Officers in armoured vehicles attended as the names of some bandsmen were taken.

Sinn Fein has also criticised DUP members, including East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell, who posed for a photograph beneath a banner incorporating the Parachute Regiment insignia in the unionist Fountain estate.

Police are also investigating an illegal protest staged by dissident republican group Saoradh during the Apprentice Boys parade.

Five people were arrested on suspicion of public order offences during the day.

Commenting on Saturday night’s attacks, PSNI Superintendent Gordon McCalmont said: “Last night the Memorial Hall was busy with people socialising after the parade in the city and, while no-one was injured, this could have been much different had it not been for the actions of police.

“Police who deployed to the area to prevent further disorder were subsequently attacked by persons who threw 15 to 20 petrol bombs and other missiles in the area of Fahan Street. A number of pallets were also placed on the street and set on fire.

“Fortunately, no injuries were sustained by officers, but this violent behaviour cannot be tolerated.”

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Gregory Campbell posed for a photograph beneath a banner incorporating the Parachute Regiment insignia in the unionist Fountain estate (Liam McBurney/PA)

On the incidents during the parade, a PSNI spokesman said: “A report will be forwarded to the Public Prosecution Service in respect of behaviour and symbols displayed by one band.

“Police will also be reporting a number of individuals in relation to an un-notified protest.”

The spokesman said police would be working with the event organisers and the community to examine the issues emerging from the parade.

Sinn Fein Assembly member Raymond McCartney said: “Considerable hurt and anger has been caused by an image widely circulated on social media of senior DUP figures posing for a photograph under a banner erected in Derry’s Fountain estate featuring the logo of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment.

“This banner was intended to be provocative with the inclusion of the logo of the Parachute Regiment. The only connection of that regiment to this city is Bloody Sunday and the DUP representatives who posed for this photo would have been well aware of that.

“This, together with senior DUP figures appearing to show support for a loyalist band wearing parachute regiment insignia, demonstrates the urgent need for the DUP leadership to state whether it supports causing hurt and pain to the relatives of those murdered on Bloody Sunday and other victims of the conflict.

“Failure to do so will be seen as pandering to the loyalists who put up these provocative and hurtful symbols.”

The actions of the PSNI in Londonderry towards the Clyde Valley Flute Band have caused a huge amount of anger and ill will towards the PSNI DUP joint statement

Mr Campbell said the police had questions to answer on their response. He insisted the banner in the Fountain estate made no specific reference to Soldier F.

“Saturday’s Apprentice Boys parade passed off very peacefully despite several dissident republican attempts to exacerbate tensions both close to the parade route at the Diamond and at the Foyleside Shopping Centre,” he said.

On the Clyde Valley Flute Band, he accused the police of an “over-the-top” reaction and compared it to events in Belfast on Thursday when officers withdrew from the site of a republican bonfire after coming under attack.

“Given that there did not appear to be a suggestion of an offence being committed, it is incredulous that an operation like this took place on the week that police were perceived to have tamely walked away from a bonfire site in a republican area of north Belfast where there was obvious law-breaking in evidence,” he said.

In a joint statement, East Antrim DUP representatives Sammy Wilson MP, David Hilditch MLA and Gordon Lyons MLA added: “The actions of the PSNI in Londonderry towards the Clyde Valley Flute Band have caused a huge amount of anger and ill will towards the PSNI.

“The heavy-handedness of the police was completely unwarranted and unjustified, and there are many questions that the police will have to answer.

“We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Chief Constable and will put these questions to him directly.”

The Apprentice Boys of Derry and the Clyde Valley Flute Band have both been approached for comment.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has requested a meeting with the Apprentice Boys to raise concerns.

“Derry has been a model of respect, reconciliation and leadership when it comes to parading,” he said.

“Communities have sought to secure mutual accommodation, even when relationships have been tense.

“It is a matter of profound regret that a band chose to march on the streets of this city displaying a motif of the Parachute Regiment on their uniform. This has caused deep hurt and distress to many victims in Derry.

“The Apprentice Boys need to understand how people feel about this. They need to listen to the voices of those who have been hurt.

“We have requested a meeting with the Apprentice Boys to convey the very real pain that people are feeling and to help them understand the effect that this decision has had on community relations in our city. It is my sincere hope that we can return to the space of accommodation, understanding and respect.”

PA

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