17 September 2005

City of fear

Belfast Telegraph

By Jonathan McCambridge and Deborah McAleese
17 September 2005

Belfast remained on a knife-edge last night following sinister attempts to bring traffic chaos to the city.

Police took a robust line in keeping roads open after loyalist protests in a number of areas - there were scuffles between police in riot gear with dogs and protesters on the Donegall Road.

At one point Great Victoria Street in the City Centre was closed by police following a road-block, despite calls by UUP leader Sir Reg Empey for an end to the demonstrations.

Earlier in the day rumours swept Belfast claiming that shops, businesses and schools were to shut down from lunchtime amid fears of mass loyalist roadblocks.

Some schools reported bogus calls claiming to be from Translink telling them to send children home because buses were cancelled.

There have been warnings that the ongoing disturbances could put international investors off coming to Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile Secretary of State Peter Hain has told the Belfast Telegraph that he believes his decision to release Shankill bomber Sean Kelly has stoked loyalist anger - but claimed he could not have handled the situation any other way.

He has defended the amount of time it took him to drop recognition of the UVF ceasefire, claiming he did not want to jeopardise behind closed doors attempt to end their bloody feud with the LVF.

Mr Hain has also said it would be "unreasonable" to exclude all republicans - as distinct from IRA members - from joining the police.

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