Belfast Telegraph

Twelfth trouble review prompts call for end to one-sided politics

by Dave Whelan

An east Belfast councillor has called for an end to one-sided politics, claiming residents on both sides of interface areas are "weary" following a parade season filled with violence and unrest.

Niall O Donnghaile of Sinn Fein was speaking following a police review of the violence which erupted on the Lower Newtownards/Short Strand interface area during a July 12 parade.

The review was released after First Minister Peter Robinson and Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt met with senior PSNI officials to discuss concerns over the policing of the return leg.

In the review Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton identified that activity from both sides of the community as well as a failure in police preparation and a lack of communication with the Orange Order were at fault for the resulting violence. The report finds that:

• Tensions in East Belfast of July 12 were increased by the unknown and unpredictable nature of the Orange Order protest activity. This added to the challenges in policing the return parade particularly at the Lower Newtownards Road/Short Strand interface.

• The 'stalling' of the return parade for 53 minutes led to uncertainty that added to the challenges of the policing operation.

• The numbers involved in this attack from the Short Strand and the quantity of 'missiles' available indicated a high likelihood of preplanning on the part of those involved in violence.

• There were also a large number of missiles thrown from the Newtownards Road into the Short Strand area.

• The number of public order police deployed in the Short Strand was such that there was some delay in containing the attack on the parade.

• Without prejudice to any ongoing criminal investigation the review established a lack of police evidence gathering capability in the Short Strand.

ACC Hamilton said that the PSNI would be using the review as a base for consideration in the policing of future difficult public order situations.

Following the meeting unionist leaders Peter Robinson and Mike Nesbitt released a joint statement which blamed on Short Strand residents for the trouble.

"We acknowledge the PSNI has admitted shortcomings in their operation on the Newtownards Road on July 12. As a result of the initial attack from Short Strand and subsequent response from those on the Newtownards Road, 13 police officers were injured."

Cllr O Donnghaile said that to issue such a one-sided statement was highly irresponsible. "At the minute we are hearing nothing from leaders of unionism in terms of the future and how our communities can move away from these scenes.

"The impact of this parade season is across the board and not just in specific situations meaning that politics can't be done in isolation, we have to be responsible for everyone within our elected area and not just those who voted for us," he said.

"On the ground residents' groups are meeting across the interface, facilitated by community workers, on a regular basis. That is the type of development we need to focus on, encourage and facilitate rather than focusing on who threw the first stone and who threw the first bottle.

"There comes a point in time when you have to lift your head up above the politics," he added.

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