16 September 2005

Police chief slams Unionists over partnership boycott


16/09/2005 - 17:40:48

Belfast’s top police commander tonight hit back at unionists who have quit community partnerships over the street violence raging across the city.

As loyalist protestors threatened new traffic chaos, Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland challenged political representatives to lay off his officers and help end the disorder.

He said: “There is some evidence of others working hard to help end it, however all we are hearing from some quarters is abdication of responsibility and accusations of blame. This is unhelpful and inaccurate.”

Mr McCausland‘s appeal came amid heightened tensions in the city following a week of vicious rioting.

As a 36-year-old man was charged with attempted murder, and possession of firearms and explosives linked to the violence, bogus police officers phoned shops, offices and schools, warning them to close early due to the threat of fresh trouble.

Rush-hour traffic chaos was also threatened as crowds blocked off main roads.

The stand-offs developed between police and demonstrators angered at the handling of a week of violence since an Orange Order parade was re-routed.

Minor clashes were reported at Sandy Row in south Belfast.

Motorists also faced disruption at other routes in the city.

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey urged the protesters to get off the roads and let their representatives negotiate for them.

He said: “Allow the politicians to pursue the agenda of getting improvements to these areas, getting peace to these areas.

“Government is not going to focus on that while this disorder continues.”

Earlier unionists came under fire for boycotting the city‘s District Policing Partnership in fury at security force tactics.

Members on the forum announced the tactic after another night of mob violence, when water cannons were used to drive back a mob of petrol bombers in the north of the city.

Unionists said after pulling out police chiefs had been intransigent and claimed the relationship with the community had broken down.

But Mr McCausland insisted police were playing their part in trying to restore order.

“All of my commanders are committed to continue to engage fully with representatives to help deliver safer places to live and work, they have my total support in this.

“I am disappointed that some feel they must disengage from District Policing Partnerships. I can give my commitment to local communities that my officers will continue to engage with these forums to help make communities safer.”

Mark Durkan, leader of the nationalist SDLP, hit out at unionists for dealing with paramilitaries, yet abandoning the policing partnership.

He claimed the terror organisations, who fired 115 shots at police during the rioting, sit on a Parades Forum alongside the Ulster Unionists and Democratic Unionists.

“Clearly the UUP and DUP prefer to work with gunmen than the police,” the Foyle MP said.

“They prefer to work with people who shoot at the police than with the men and women whose job it is to enforce the law.”

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, in the United States to brief Congress members on the political process, claimed unionism was in crisis.

He said: “It is both a fear of change and desire to dominate which lies at the heart of the crisis within unionism.”

Naomi Long, an Alliance Party representative on the policing forum, said the unionist boycott was disappointing and shameful.

Ms Long revealed that only one apology was handed in at last night’s meeting, with the rest just failing to show.

She said: “I’m absolutely dumbfounded by the lack of leadership and integrity we are seeing within unionism in the face of some of the most serious rioting and disorder we have seen in recent days.”

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