16 September 2005

Traffic chaos as roads blockaded


Loyalist protests have disrupted rush-hour traffic

Several roads in Belfast have been blocked by loyalist protesters causing traffic chaos for the fifth day in a row.

Police, however, said the protests appeared to have ended and traffic was now reported to be running freely.

A stand-off between police in riot gear and about 100 protesters on Donegall Road ended following negotiations.

A number of cash machines in the city centre are empty as deliveries have been hampered by the road blocks.

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey called for an end to the demonstrations.

He said as long as they continued, loyalist areas would suffer.

"The government's attention is now being focused on concerns that people have in may of these loyalist areas," he said.

"There will be no progress made while these disturbances continue."

However, SDLP leader Mark Durkan said there had been "a total failure in unionist leadership".

"Like others, I have to ask why it has taken him (Sir Reg) a week to scramble to that sort of line of sense," he said.

Earlier, bogus callers caused further disruption to businesses across Belfast.

A number of shops and offices in the city received calls purporting to be from the police advising them to close early.

There have been protests at Dub Lane on the Upper Malone Road, Seymour Hill and Kingsway in Dunmurry and Finaghy crossroads, causing long tailbacks.

Meanwhile, a statement from loyalists has said a blockade planned for Broadway roundabout has been cancelled.

It was scheduled to take place on Friday, however, loyalists said they intended to consider other forms of protest.


Schools in the city were also contacted by hoax callers.

Translink said the calls to schools incorrectly claimed that Friday's school bus services had been cancelled.

The company has decided to either suspend or divert several of their bus services because of the nightly violence which started after Saturday's Orange Order Whiterock parade in west Belfast.

On Thursday night, police used water cannon on rioters in the Forthriver estate after officers came under attack.

Rush-hour traffic leaving the city has been disrupted since Monday by loyalist protesters angry at the police's response to disturbances which followed the diverted march.

On Thursday, police cleared many protests off main roads and arrested four people, but were told they faced paramilitary attack if they tried to move women and children protesters.

However, they said they intended to step up their operations to deal with the protests.

Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland said all road protests were illegal and that community leaders should exercise their influence to bring them to an end.

He said that the protests, mostly featuring women and children had been peaceful, but that they were causing disruption.

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