Blame game follows east Belfast riot
Blame game follows east Belfast riot

The PSNI has been strongly criticised for its actions during a major riot in east Belfast following a Sinn Fein rally.

The rally inside the nationalist Short Strand enclave to mark the official closure of the hated Mountpottinger PSNI base had just ended when a mob of several hundred loyalists clashed with nationalist youths along the sectarian interface near the Albertbridge Road.

Some 500 loyalists had gathered in an intimidatory manner to oppose the rally and carried a banner to demand that the massively fortified base remains open.

The PSNI were criticised for waiting until violence erupted before intervening. Their subsequent deployment of potentially lethal plastic bullets caused a number of injuries.

While the Sinn Fein rally dispersed peacefully, with some taking part in a celebratory dinner evening, hardline republicans accused Sinn Fein of “running away”.

By contrast, SDLP Deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell accused Sinn Fein of engaging in “ghetto politics”.

“If Sinn Fein is once again sponsoring interface kiddy rioting in order to compete with the dissidents for community control, we are in a very dangerous situation,” he said.

Local Sinn Fein representative Niall O Donnghaile blamed “anti-social elements” for the violence, which he said was orchestrated and unrelated to the Sinn Fein event.

“What happened on Monday night was just a continuation of around 18 months of activity at the interface by criminal elements on both sides.

“It has nothing to do with republicanism and is very much pre-planned and pre-orchestrated,” he said.

A number of homes in the Short Strand were attacked during the trouble, and loyalists were suspected as being responsible. However, Mr O Donnghaile, whose parents’ home was one of those attacked, again blamed anti-social elements for the incident.

Mr O Donnghaile suggested that the violence had been organised “over the internet”.

“I am a republican and I have never contacted people on the loyalist side, either by phone or through ‘Bebo’ [website], to arrange a riot and I don’t know anyone else who has, although that’s how these ongoing disturbances are said to manifest themselves.

“There were people of all ages, young and old, who attended the rally and all dispersed peacefully, they had nothing to do with the later disturbances.

“My parents’ home was attacked and that is a reflection of the type of people who are involved in this type of behaviour.

“The PSNI are well aware of these ongoing problems and have, to date, failed to deal with the situation adequately.

“The use of plastic bullets was completely uncalled for and unjustifiable,” he said.


Meanwhile, eirigi has submitted an emergency motion to Dublin City Council on the PSNI’s use of plastic bullets in the North. It was introduced on Tuesday by party activist and councillor Louise Minihan, formerly of Sinn Fein and is the nascent party’s first to any council in Ireland.

The motion, which will come before a full meeting of Dublin City Council on September 7, was drafted in response to the firing of plastic bullets by the PSNI in the Short Strand area of east Belfast last night [Monday] and in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast on July 13.

Party chair Brian Leeson said: “Given the events in the Short Strand last night and Ardoyne in July, the issue of plastic bullet use by British forces in Ireland is once again centre stage. The submission of this motion, which is eirigi’s first to any council in Ireland, will help to highlight what is quite literally a life and death issue for those who live in the occupied Six Counties.

“The firing of plastic bullets by the PSNI during a peaceful protest in Ardoyne and again last night is a worrying development. A number of people, including several children, have been injured as a result of these two incidents.”

He pointed out that, since their introduction in the early 1970s, 17 civilians have been killed by plastic bullets, fired by various British forces.

“Many more have suffered horrific injuries, including blinding, as a result of being struck by plastic bullets,” he said.

“The firing of plastic bullets by the PSNI is part of the broader role that force plays in protecting the British occupation.

“Over the course of the last year, the PSNI has also used 28-day detention legislation against republicans, worked hand-in-glove with the British army’s Special Reconnaissance Regiment and collaborated on a daily basis with MI5.

“These actions, along with the fact that the force remains routinely armed with assault rifles, Tasers and CS gas, expose the paramilitary and inherently political nature of the PSNI.”

Urgent Appeal

Despite increasing support for Irish freedom and unity, we need your help to overcome British and unionist intransigence. We can end the denial of our rights in relation to Brexit, the Irish language, a border poll and legacy issues, with your support.

Please support IRN now to help us continue reporting and campaigning for our national rights. Even one pound a month can make a big difference for us.

Your contribution can be made with a credit or debit card by clicking below. A continuing monthly donation of £2 or more will give you full access to this site. Thank you. Go raibh míle maith agat.

© 2009 Irish Republican News