UVF riots in Ballyclare, Newtownabbey, Carrickfergus

Riots orchestrated by the unionist paramilitary UVF erupted in a number of towns in county Antrim overnight, ostensibly over the removal of UVF flags erected for the marching season.

The heaviest rioting took place in the small town of Ballyclare just before midnight following a loyalist protest.

Serious disorder later erupted in Newtownabbey and in Carrickfergus as masked UVF paramilitaries hijacked vehicles and set them alight. A number of key routes in the north were sealed off by the burning barricades.

The PSNI said six of its members were hurt when a hijacked bus was rammed into their vehicle in Ballyclare. It said they were forced to use plastic bullets and water cannon against about about a hundred UVF suupporters.

The trouble has been linked to the large-scale UVF violence in Belfast three weeks ago. The organisation has demanded an increased share of so-called ‘peace funds’ from the Stormont administration, as well as impunity for historical offences.

A UVF political representative said it was seeking talks regarding the removal of UVF flags.

“There is going to be talks with local PSNI commanders, we need to have answers as to why this decision was made”, Phil Hamilton said.

“It seems to me there has been very little if no community consultation, and I think when we talk about flags which are pretty contentious that they need to consult the full community.

“Tensions are high but I would make a direct appeal to everyone for calm heads over the next while because there are people like myself behind the scenes working tirelessly to try and get agreement for all the community”, Mr Hamilton added.

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