The handling of a loyalist riot by the PSNI police in north Belfast on Monday stands has sharply contrast with violent clashes with nationalists over the weekend.
Supporters of the unionist paramilitary UVF threw dozens of petrol bombs and seven vehicles were hijacked and burnt in the Woodvale area of north Belfast after PSNI raided houses and a social club as part of an investigation into a UVF ‘show-of-strength’.
Many residents were trapped in their homes for hours as groups of hooded and masked loyalists attacked police and fire crews.
Despite three hours of serious disorder no plastic bullet rounds, CS gas or water cannon were used on the troublemakers.
Yesterday’s violence comes five days ahead of a controversial Orange Order march in west Belfast on Saturday which the UVF has insisted it will push through a flashpoint area despite being banned by the Parades Commission.
Sinn Féin councillor Margaret McClenaghan said the police response was in “stark” contrast to its handling of nationalist rioting on July 12, when both plastic bullets and water cannon were deployed.
Meanwhile, the Police Ombudsman is to be asked to investigate the actions of the PSNI in the predominately nationalist village of Cushendall.
Sinn Féin councillor Oliver McMullan, who owns a bar in the County Antrim village, has accused officers of assaulting men, woemn and children in a heavy-handed arrest operation.
The councillor was himself clubbed and sprayed with CS gas during the disturbance which took place shortly after midnight on Sunday.
“I had one young boy of 14 who was on his way to get chips when he was sprayed in the face with CS gas, now that is quite serious,” he said.
“We need to get this whole thing investigated, I would like to know what this attempted arrest was all about.”
In a separate disturbance in west Belfast, police also used CS gas as they attempted to make arrests in Andersonstown in the early hours of Sunday morning.
SInn Féin’s Gerry Kelly has also blasted the police’s defence of its handling of ongoing sectarian violence against Catholics.
Gerry Kelly was speaking after Chief Constable Hugh Orde insisted police had not been ‘soft’ on unionist paramilitaries.
At a meeting of the Policing Board on Thursday, Orde admitted that the force’s response to the UVF intimidation of residents of the Garnerville estate in east Belfast in July could have been better.
Mr Kelly said yesterday: “We cannot have the excuses that are given up. It [the loyalist violence] is much worse this year than last year. We have had over 100 attacks on Catholic homes, churches and primary schools.
“We have had five murders and we have had Garnerville in the middle of that.
“I have heard leaders of unionism as well as leaders of loyalist political parties saying they have no influence - that is a complete nonsense.
“They clearly have influence. We want to see them using that influence.”