26 August 2005

Political reaction to weekend of violence


As the dust settles on the aftermath of another devastating weekend in South-East Belfast, local politicians were unanimous in their condemnation of the violence which erupted at the Short Strand / Cluan Place interface.

A sustained and violent attack by loyalist thugs which left many nationalist families in fear for their homes and their safety has been criticised across the political board. Initial attacks by loyalists led to stonethowing across the peaceline from the nationalist area.

Sinn Féin Short Strand representative Deborah Devenny accused the PSNI of being “unwilling” to deal with loyalist violence.

“They have demonstrated once again, their unwillingness to deal with loyalist thugs intent upon intimidating people of this area. The PSNI have absolutely no control over this situation.

“Furthermore, there are three security cameras in the area which must have picked up events. It will be interested to see if the tapes are taken away and examined.

“This community is sickened and disgusted by a week-long siege on the district. A barrage of ball-bearings, golf balls, bricks and bottles have rained down upon people and property.”

Ms Devenny also called on unionist leaders to take responsibility for the violence.

“The political leadership of unionism and the Orange Order must face down these people.

“In a week when Sinn Féin launched a dossier outlining over 85 attacks on nationalists in the summer months, unionist paramilitaries continue to orchestrate and participate in these attacks,” she said.

MP for South Belfast, Dr Alasdair McDonnell called for better police protection for people living along the interface at Short Strand.

“Once again mindless sectarian violence has blackened the name of Belfast and damaged fragile community relations across the city.

“It is incredibly fortunate that many people were not seriously injured or worse during what was hours of concentrated and hate-filled rioting involving up to 400 people. “The people of the Short Strand have the right to the highest level of protection for their homes and persons, and they have the right to expect that from the PSNI. It is absolutely vital for the creation of a lawful society that everyone can rely on a fully accountable police service for protection.”

UUP councillor for Pottinger, Jim Rodgers said that he condemned violence “wherever it came from”.

“Regardless of what side did this, it is terrible,” said the Ulster Unionist. Innocent people suffering is not acceptable and I would urge those responsible to step down. I would like to take these people to the Northern Ireland Hospice to talk to terminally ill people. It would bring things into sharp perspective for them.”

Cllr Rodgers condemned what he called the “stand back” policy of the PSNI and called for greater police intervention. “Public disorder is increasing all over our city. The police should realise that sitting back is not going to solve these problems. I’m not suggesting that they go in heavy handed, but we do need a permanent and sensitive policing presence in these areas because at the moment they have totally lost control,” he said.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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