Top talks aim to halt violence ‘for good’
First Minister Peter Robinson is talking to loyalist leaders in a bid to end the current spate of rioting in east Belfast.
East Belfast DUP MLA Sammy Douglas told the Community Telegraph yesterday evening (Wednesday, June 22) that meetings were taking place with a broad range of groups, church leaders and the police.
He said the First Minister and Deputy First Minister planned to set up a group that would “investigate the underlying issues that have led to this conflict”.
They would also implement security measures that would prevent residents being attacked in their homes “on both sides of the community”.
Meetings took place throughout yesterday between loyalists and republicans and they are believed to have reached an agreement last night (Wednesday) that they will work together.
“That will give a breathing space to come up with more plans and more actions to ensure that this level of violence never breaks out again,” said Mr Douglas.
The rioting began on Saturday night and escalated into serious violence by the start of the week.
On Monday bullets were fired from both loyalist and nationalists, two loyalists were shot in the legs in the rioting and shots were fired by loyalists at the PSNI.
The PSNI were attacked with petrol bombs and pipebombs while petrol bombs were launched into the nationalist Short Strand.
On Tuesday night the violence continued and a photographer, Niall Carson was shot by a paramilitary gunman confirmed to be a dissident republican by the PSNI.
A police spokesperson said that on Tuesday night police had been attacked with petrol bombs, paint bombs, laser pens and masonry and it's understood that approximately 300-400 individuals were involved in the disorder and as on Monday night, shots were fired.
“A press photographer sustained a gunshot injury to his right leg and was taken to hospital for treatment to his injuries where he remains in a stable condition.”
The police fired 66 plastic bullets over the course of the disturbances and deployed both their helicopters during the disorder.
“A 20 year old female was arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon and assault on police. Police would appeal to anyone with any information to contact police on 0845 600 8000,” added the spokesperson.
South Belfast SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt witnessed the rioting on Monday night, he said: “Pensioner bungalows and St Matthews were in the frontline and under sustained attack from several hundred rioters.
“This provoked retaliation from the other side of the interface which led to an exceptionally dangerous and violent situation.”
Councillor Jim Rodgers, chair of the East Belfast DPP, called on parents to take responsibility for their children.
“Whenever you have young people from the age of 12 out rioting there’s clearly a responsibility on parents to ascertain where their children are.”
He pleaded for calm: “I would urge people to wise up and step back from the brink because it isn’t leading us anywhere.”
Maggie Hutton, of the UUP said after four days of violence: “We’re just trying to keep people calm.
“But with reports that dissidents are responsible for the shooting of the photographer it has made people scared.”