Sinn Fein has accused the PSNI of an “obvious disparity” between how riots in loyalist and nationalist areas are policed.
In all 21 nationalist youths have been arrested in north Belfast, but no-one has yet been apprehended over loyalist rioting in County Antrim, which broke out when the PSNI removed illegal unionist paramilitary flags from outside a church in Ballyclare. Instead, the force controversially issued an apology to the loyalist rioters.
Meanwhile, the PSNI are continuing to seek further arrests following riots in the republican Ardoyne area over an anti-Catholic Orange Order march. The latest public release of helicopter footage in an attempt to identify nationalists has contrasted sharply with the low-key treatment of loyalist rioters.
Sinn Fein policing board member Gerry Kelly said there was a “softly, softly” approach being taken to policing loyalists.
“There is a strong perception that there exists a hands off approach when it comes to the PSNI dealing with loyalist violence,” the north Belfast assembly member said.
“To date there has been 59 people arrested in Belfast, Portadown and Derry for disturbances over the twelfth of July. Yet there have been no arrests over loyalist rioting in Ballyclare, Newtonabbey and Carrickfergus that saw 15 cars destroyed and a bus driven at the PSNI.
“This follows a similar pattern last year when 52 people were charged over rioting in Ardoyne yet only 1 loyalist was charged with two nights of rioting in Rathcoole in October and only 9 arrests following two nights of UVF attacks on the Short Strand a number of weeks ago.”
He said the difference in arrest figures showed an “obvious disparity” in the way different areas were being treated.
“Nothing can justify those who were responsible for rioting, yet nothing can also justify these figures and the PSNI have serious questions to answer,” Mr Kelly said.
Sinn Fein councillor Danny Lavery has said nationalist residents along a ‘peace line’ at Oldpark in north Belfast were forced to repel a loyalist mob assault alone last weekend.
Loyalists first pelted Catholic people’s homes from the roofs of empty houses on Manor Drive on the Protestant side of the interface.
“Loyalists came up the road and nationalists went out and fought with them. Then grown men got on top of empty houses and attacked homes on Rosapenna Street,” he said.
“I saw the backs of three houses that were damaged. These houses need to be filled or demolished to stop this continuing,” he added.