Belfast Telegraph

Police chief says New IRA to blame for city violence

By Leona O'Neill

The PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has said that the violent dissident republican group the New IRA is behind the murder attempts and disorder in Londonderry over this past week.

He was speaking after a sixth night of violence in the city saw 74 petrol bombs and two blast bombs thrown at his officers.

Police fired four baton rounds and made three arrests of men aged 18, 22 and 50. The 50-year-old man was yesterday charged with disorderly behaviour and will appear at Omagh Magistrates Court today.

The Chief Constable said there would be more arrests in the coming days.

"There are young people of not even teenage years involved in violence against their community, against police officers," he said. "It is a concern to all of us. I think it's good that we are seeing civil and political people coming out and condemning this. People in this great city need to use whatever influence they can to bring this recklessness to an end.

"The people most affected by this detrimentally are the residents of the Bogside. We have older people in that community living in fear, wondering if their windows are going to come in, worried that their vehicles are going to get damaged. We have young people getting involved in this violence, getting sucked into it by violent dissident republican groups.

"And those young people will get criminal records. We have a very strong judicial strategy. We are gathering evidence. We have several officers and a public inquiry team reviewing footage of those involved in the disorder. There have been six arrests, right up to and including for attempted murder.

"There will be more arrests to follow and we would plead with parents and those responsible for children and young people to know where they are, to have some sort of control over them and to safeguard them from the influences of these violent dissident republicans. They do not care about the future of our children. They do not care about their own communities."

Mr Hamilton said that the New IRA group was involved in the unrest and attacks on his police officers, whom he described as "courageous and resilient heroes" who have a "heart to protect their community". He said that if the violence continues it is "only a matter of time before someone is killed". And he hit back at criticism that police were not doing enough to quell the violence that has plagued the Bogside for almost a week.

"I'm not sure what else we can do," he said. "We have public order resources deployed, we are engaging with community reps every day.

"Today we have been out safeguarding children, dealing with domestic abuse, arresting people for drugs offences, dealing with burglaries and criminal damage, all the ordinary policing stuff is still going on. We are doing that, plus dealing with this mad disorder right through the night to the early hours of this morning.

"I'm satisfied that we are working very hard at this. We don't want to overreact to this. We don't want to make it worse. But nor will we stand back, and you can be sure that we will rigorously apply the law and do everything in our power to protect people. But community and civic need to come together to say with one voice that this must stop and stop now before someone is killed or seriously injured."

Belfast Telegraph

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