Trouble broke out in Derry after a heavy PSNI presence turned out to monitor an Easter commemoration organised by the 32 County Sovereignty Movement.
The republican group, which is supportive of the breakaway ‘Real IRA’, had planned to gather at the gates of Derry city cemetery before making their way to the republican plot to hold an Easter Rising commemoration. Marian Price from the 32 County Sovereignty Movement was the main speaker at the commemoration.
A PSNI spokesperson described the event in the Creggan area of the city last Monday as an “un-notified republican parade”.
Five armoured PSNI vehicles which arrived on the scere at the start of the parade were pelted with bricks and petrol bombs, while a PSNI spy helicopter monitored developments from the air.
A spokesperson for the 32 County Sovereignty Movement said that republicans attending the commemoration had been “goaded” by the police.
“The police were sitting there and they goaded the young people who were standing watching. If the police are going to sit in landrovers in the middle of Creggan at a republican parade then this was always going to happen,” he said.
Sinn Féin councillor Peter Anderson condemned the attack on the police but asked what the PSNI were doing at a republican Easter commemoration.
“Obviously this is to be regretted and it is not what we want to see. The question has to be asked, however, what were the police doing at a republican commemoration in a republican area.
“Many people will say that the young people were being baited by the PSNI presence there,” he said.
BANGOR MARCH TROUBLE
Meanwhile, residents of the nationalist Short Strand in east Belfast are again feeling the brunt of unionist violence as scores of youths, returning from a sectarian march in County Down launched an attack on the Catholic enclave.
The violence is believed to have been caused by unionists returning from a march in Bangor by the Protestant Orange Order on Tuesday.
As the marchers and their supporters were escorted along the Albertbridge Road by the PSNI,they threw bottles and stones at nationalist houses in the Short Strand.
Earlier Tuesday up to 100 people were involved as violence flared at the march in Bangor. Further fighting occurred on trains ferrying unionists back to Belfast.
East Belfast Sinn Féin representative Niall O Donnghaile condemned those involved in the attack on the Short Strand.
He said the trouble seemed to have been part of a day of violent incidents associated with some of those attending the Orange Order events in Bangor.
“Clearly, not content with causing trouble in Bangor and at Central station in Belfast, those involved were trying to stir up trouble in the East Belfast area. Such activity is completely reprehensible and must not be repeated.
“The Orange Order must carry a degree of responsibility for yesterday’s violence. I would call upon them, as well as community leaders and politicians, to ensure that these actions are not allowed to set the tone for the summer.”
Elsewhere in Belfast, there were clashes between rival groups of youths at a west Belfast interface on Wednesday night. Petrol bombs, bricks and boulders were thrown at PSNI police in the New Barnsley area during several hours of disturbances.
And Catholics have been assaulted in two separate attacks in Ballymena over the Easter as tensions increased in the North’s most sectarian town.
A taxi which picked up two Catholics in the town drove them to a car park in Harryville, where a gang of up to 20 loyalists were waiting for them.
Barry McGill, who was one of the two men attacked, saidthe taxi driver shouted “we’ve got two fenians in the car”. He said he was then chased by the gang who punched his friend, leaving him with a black eye.
Mr McGill said he was also attacked last year, just weeks before the murder of his friend, 15-year-old Michael McIlveen in May.
“I got my stomach sliced open last year,” he said. “It’s not safe in Ballymena any more. You can’t even get a taxi home now.”
In a separate attack, a group of loyalists assaulted a Catholic youth near a filling station in the town at about 5.30am on Sunday.
North Antrim Sinn Féin assembly member Daithi McKay described the attacks as “deeply concerning” and said it was “only a matter of time before someone else is killed in the town”.
“What is equally as concerning is the fact that loyalists still have the confidence to carry out these attacks in the town and get away with it,” he said.
“Until the PSNI starts securing not only convictions for such acts but also stiff sentences from the courts, this trend looks set to continue.”