10 September 2005

Officers injured as shots fired

BBC


Riot police kept residents and marchers apart

Shots have been fired at police and blast bombs thrown during loyalist rioting surrounding a controversial Orange Order parade in Belfast.

Water canon and plastic bullets have been used against petrol bombers who attacked police and soldiers. Four officers were reported injured.

The security forces came under sustained attack by several hundred rioters on West Circular Road.

Cars were hijacked and set on fire on Ardoyne Road and North Queen Street.

Protests linked to the Orange Order's re-routed Whiterock parade caused severe traffic disruption in the city.

In North Queen Street, police came under attack.

Earlier, a number of children were left badly shocked after a bus driving along the street was hit with bottles and stones.

A window was smashed and one passenger said some people on board panicked and were screaming in terror.

"It's hard to tell for sure whether anyone's hurt because so many people panicked and got off the bus. They were screaming and yelling," he said.

"It was obvious to me that a number of the children were in shock."

Several roads were blocked in what a DUP councillor said was "disgust" over a ban on the parade.

The march was barred from going through security gates on the Springfield Road, and had to use a former factory site.

There was a major police and Army presence in the area. Screens were erected in front of houses.

Almost 100 people blocked off three lanes of traffic behind Belfast City Hall.

Some of the protesters had their face covered with scarves, others were wearing hoods. The police closed the road for a time, before the crowd moved to Shaftesbury Square.

Another group of protesters tried to block the Albert Bridge in east Belfast. They were attacked by residents in the Short Strand.

The tension was defused by police who are currently in riot gear keeping both sides apart.

Orangeman Raymond Speers explained the reason for the protest.

"In the grand scale of things, just to disrupt traffic is not a heinous crime when you look back over the years of history in Northern Ireland," he said.

"It's frustration of Protestant people as to what they can do to have their ordinary voice heard. We just feel so frustrated that there is a cultural veto through the Parades Commission for the republican/nationalist community."

Sinn Fein councillor Fra McCann said the trouble could have been avoided if the Orangemen had talked to Springfield Road residents.

'Loyalist paramilitaries'

Following earlier protests, the Grosvenor Road and Westlink are now open. However, part of the Albertbridge Road and Shaftesbury Square remain closed.

Meanwhile, a van has also been hijacked at Ohio Street, but recovered a short time later. No-one was injured.

On Friday night, a senior police officer said he feared loyalist paramilitaries could cause trouble at the march.

Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland appealed to community representatives to prevent tensions rising at the parade.

After a request by unionists on Friday, the Parades Commission reviewed its ruling on the Whiterock Parade, but did not change it.

It was re-routed by the Parades Commission through the former Mackies site instead of Workman Avenue, off the mainly nationalist Springfield Road.


There was a heavy security presence for the parade

A feeder march on "a non-contentious part" of the road was allowed by the commission.

In a statement, the Belfast County Grand Orange Lodge said "in spite of all the risks taken," the Orangemen were "faced with a further attempt to humiliate and suppress their culture".

It said nationalist and republicans would come to understand that "exercising a cultural veto" through their "Parades Commission puppets" would not be allowed to continue "without consequences".

DUP leader Ian Paisley and the UUP's Sir Reg Empey met Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde about the parade route.

They submitted what they said was new evidence to the Parades Commission, asking the body to review its decision, but their request was refused.

The Orange Order first shelved the re-routed parade in June, which had been opposed by nationalist Springfield Road residents. It was re-scheduled for Saturday, but again restricted.

In its determination on the march, the Parades Commission cited "a possible adverse effect on community relations" if the march was allowed on the Order's preferred route.

The Parades Commission was set up in 1997 to make decisions on whether or not restrictions should be imposed on controversial parades during Northern Ireland's marching season.

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