18 June 2005

Belfast Telegraph

Violence mars first big event of march season
29 injured in clashes around Ardoyne shops

By Andrea Clements and Deborah McAleese
18 June 2005

EIGHTEEN police officers and 11 members of the public were injured when violence broke out in north Belfast during the first major parade of the marching season.

Police said at least 10 petrol bombs, stones and bottles were thrown by nationalist protesters as dozens of marchers from the Tour of the North Parade passed the Ardoyne shop fronts last night.

Officers used water cannon after police and marchers were attacked. A 14-year-old girl suffered a broken arm at the flashpoint.

Sporadic fighting also broke out within the nationalist protesters, after bottles thrown from the back of the crowd hit those at the front.

Three people were arrested and charged with public order offences.

North Belfast District Commander Chief Supt Mike Little hit out at the violence, describing it as "disappointing".

He said officers had come under "sustained attack" but that they had returned the area to normal as quickly as possible.

"Police will investigate the attacks on the parade by protesters as it passed the Ardoyne shop fronts.

"We will also investigate a breach of the Parades Commission determination by the protesters and subsequent disturbances.

"We will be examining CCTV footage from the scene and will work to bring all those found breaking the law to justice," he added.

North Belfast MP, the DUP's Nigel Dodds, said the attack on the parade and those returning home was "totally disgraceful".

"Men, women and children were subjected to a vicious and indiscriminate attack that left a number of people with serious injures," he added.

His party colleague Nelson McCausland said protesters had shown a "flagrant breach" of the Parades Commission determination.

SDLP's Alban Maginness said last night's events were a bad sign for the rest of the marching season and he called for the PSNI to review their operation.

"This now puts a further onus on all those involved around parades to redouble their efforts to try to keep this summer on our streets as peaceful as possible."

Sinn Fein said the decision to allow the march to go past Ardoyne had been a "recipe for disaster".

Councillor Margaret McClenaghan said the Orange Order had refused to speak to the Ardoyne dialogue group.

She said it was a mistake that the lodges and bands had been allowed past 20 to 25 minutes before their supporters.

And she claimed that parade supporters being escorted by the PSNI had "verbally and physically attacked" Catholic residents of the Crumlin Road.

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