Belfast Telegraph

Politicians join rally in Bogside urging an end to Derry interface rioting

By Leona O'Neill

Several dozen people gathered last night in Londonderry's Bogside to show solidarity with those who have been affected by several nights of rioting in the area.

The rally organised by Bogside Youth Services and local residents called for the street disturbances and intimidation of local residents to stop.

On Friday night bottles were thrown over the peace line into the predominantly Protestant Fountain estate.

On Saturday a total of 34 petrol bombs were thrown during rioting. Three were thrown at homes in the Fountain, four at the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall and the rest at police officers.

On Sunday evening homes in the Fountain were again attacked and youths pelted police with 40 petrol bombs during several hours of disturbances.

A petrol bomb was also thrown at Alexander House, sheltered living accommodation for elderly people, during rioting.

John Lynch from the Long Tower Youth Club, who spoke at the rally, said it was essential to show their neighbours they were not alone.

"It's important to show solidarity with the members of our community who are living in fear and intimidation," he said.

"We are here to show that we support them and they are not on their own."

Those gathered, including SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, Sinn Fein MP Elisha McCallion and Martin McGuinness' son Fiachra, walked up towards the interface with the Fountain, where they stood against the peace line before dispersing.

Members of the Fountain community stood on Derry's Walls viewing the scene, but the two groups did not interact.

Shortly after the rally finished hooded youths threw a petrol bomb and several bricks at police in the area.

PSNI Chief Inspector Alan Hutton said the violence was senseless and there would be consequences and arrests in connection with the disturbances.

He said: "Shortly before 7pm on Sunday night police received reports of bottles being thrown in the vicinity of the Fountain estate interface and Nailor's Row.

"Police responded to prevent further disorder and were attacked by persons who threw over 40 petrol bombs and missiles at our officers.

"A petrol bomb was also thrown into the grounds of Alexander House.

"This senseless attack put the lives of the residents at risk, and while no injuries were sustained, this could have been much different had it not been for the actions of police at the scene extinguishing the fire.

"I would also appeal to those in the community to use their influence to help us maintain control of the situation so that we do not have a repeat of this behaviour.

"We will deploy the necessary resources to detect and deter those responsible in a proportionate manner, and we shall seek to gather evidence to bring those responsible before the courts whether through evidence gathering or arrests at the time.

"There will be consequences for those choosing to engage in this type of behaviour. One person has been arrested in relation to incidents last weekend and more arrests will follow."

The attacks have been condemned by the SDLP, DUP, Sinn Fein, and UUP.

Foyle DUP MLA Gary Middleton said they were down to "intolerance" over the Twelfth celebrations.

"There are elements within republicanism deliberately intent on trying to raise tensions in the run-up to one of the largest unionist cultural expressions," he said.

"It is deeply worrying the lengths that those involved are determined to go to by endangering life and property."

Councillor Mary Hamilton, who chairs the city's Policing and Community Safety Partnership, condemned the trouble.

"These attacks and disturbances are not acceptable in our community," she said.

"The people living in the Fountain estate have the right to live in peace without fear of attack. Similarly, the people living in the Bogside cannot be held to ransom by a faceless minority intent on devastation and destruction.

"I would appeal to parents to take responsibility for their children to ensure they don't become involved in this criminality which could ultimately lead to a custodial sentence.

"I would urge anyone with information on these incidents to contact the PSNI or Crimestoppers immediately."

Derry and Strabane deputy mayor Derek Hussey also called for an end to attacks on the Fountain estate.

The Ulster Unionist councillor condemned Saturday's trouble, which he said was down to "pure sectarian hatred".

"This is nothing less than attempted murder and cannot be tolerated by the authorities," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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