Sinn Fein has taken the unusual step of praising the PSNI for its handling of street disorder in parts of Armagh.
Assemblyman John O’Dowd said the police “took the right decision” in refusing to be drawn into confrontation with armed and masked men in Lurgan and Craigavon.
His comments come after a quiet night in the Kilwilkie, Drumbeg and Meadowbrook areas where dissident republicans had waged a three-day campaign of violence in opposition to the jailing of three men.
Since last Thursday 10 vehicles have been hijacked — nine of which were burnt out — in an effort to lure the security forces into a riot situation. Cross-border rail travel was also seriously disrupted when cars were torched and left on railway lines.
In the latest sporadic trouble on Saturday night, six masked men forced a driver out of his car at the Drumbeg roundabout, Craigavon. One was reported to have been armed with a knife.
A short time later in Lurgan a mother and son were subjected to a terrifying ordeal when dissidents told them they were human bombs. Two men wearing balaclavas, one of whom was carrying a handgun, claimed to have attached a device to their horse lorry. They ordered the woman to drive to a nearby police station. On examination no bomb was found.
Mr O’Dowd, however, said things could have been much worse if the PSNI reacted differently. He said: “I believe the approach taken has managed to quell disturbances.
“That might seem contradictory given that we have had up to a dozen vehicles hijacked and burnt and a number of terrifying incidents for motorists but the plan was to draw large numbers of young people into the streets into confrontation. I believe the PSNI took the right decision.”