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Prima notte di disordini a East Belfast

Riots tra gruppi rivali stanno infiammando l’area di East Belfast da due notti consecutive

Dallo scorso lunedì notte (ultimo giorno di servizio di Sir Hugh Orde in  qualità di Chief Constable del PSNI) l’area di Albertbridge Road è scenario di disordini a sfondo settario, che vedono contrapposti fazioni repubblicane e lealiste. Il tutto sarebbe nato dopo una manifestazione organizzata dal Sinn Fein per celebrare la chiusura della stazione di polizia di Mountpottinger.
Coinvolti 200 rivoltosi che hanno lanciato molotov, sassi e razzi contro la polizia che ha reagito sparando proiettili di gomma finendo subito sotto accusa.
Lo stesso scenario, anche se di dimensioni ridotte rispetto alla notte precedente, si è ripetuto ieri 1 settembre a partire dalle 18.45. I disordini sono stati sedati dal PSNI intorno alle 2.30.
Un poliziotto è rimasto ferito al volto dopo essere stato colpito con una pallina da golf.
Tre gli arresti. ‘Questo comportamento è ancora del tutto inaccettabile’, ha dichiarato l’Area Commander CI John McKeag.
“Gli abitanti della zona meritano di vivere in pace e posso assicurare alla comunità che stiamo continuando a lavorare per portare i responsabili davanti ai tribunali alla prima occasione. Un team di agenti appositamente preparati, è stato istituito per raggiungere questo obiettivo e sono sicuro che ulteriori arresti saranno compiuti nel corso dei prossimi giorni”.
Gli unionisti si interrogano ora sulle eventuali responsabilità del Sinn Fein, ritenuto colpevole di aver organizzato una manifestazione nell’area di Short Strand a soli 200 metri dal territorio lealista.
Robin Newton del Democratic Unionist Party ha dichiarato: “Vorrei sapere se questo è stato un evento che ha avuto la benedizione del Sinn Féin, o se  è stato qualcosa di organizzato da una o due persone”.
“Perché se si è trattato di una manifestazione organizzata dal Sinn Fein, credo che sia  stato imprudente da parte loro. Ovviamente, l’evento si è sviluppato in una sommossa che non sono stati in grado di controllare”.

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U TV – Dibattito sul settarismo

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Sectarian riots erupt in Belfast on police chief’s last night in charge (The Guardian)
Scenes reminiscent of dark days of the Troubles as Sir Hugh Orde steps down as Northern Ireland chief constable
The Police Service of Northern Ireland fired baton rounds into crowds to quell sectarian rioting in Belfast last night, on the last day of Sir Hugh Orde’s tenure as the region’s chief constable.
Sinn Féin and local unionists argued over how the violence escalated in east Belfast. Unionists blamed republicans for holding a rally outside a police station in the nationalist Short Strand area 200 yards from a loyalist area of east Belfast.
Rival groups pelted each other with bottles and stones and missiles were thrown at police and passing motorists at the junction of Albertbridge and Castlereagh Roads.
The Democratic Unionist councillor Robin Newton said he wanted to know who was behind the organisation of the rally marking the closure of Mountpottinger police station. “I would like to know if this was an event with the blessing of Sinn Féin, or whether this was something organised by one or two individuals,” he said.
“Because if it was a Sinn Féin-organised event, then I think it was something that was reckless on their part. It obviously developed into a riot that they were unable to control.”
Dawn Purvis, the leader of the Progressive Unionist party, said Sinn Féin bore some responsibility for bringing crowds on to the streets close to a sectarian interface.
The east Belfast Sinn Féin representative, Niall O’Donnghaile, said the use of plastic bullets was “completely unjustified” and the event and the trouble afterwards were not connected.
“Trouble has been ongoing in this area over the past number of weeks and has been flagged up by community workers and statutory bodies from both sides of the community,” he said. “The PSNI would have been made well aware of these problems and, in my opinion, have failed to deal with the situation adequately.”
No arrests have been made in connection with the violence. During the disturbances, a police helicopter hovered over the crowds warning rioters that they would be arrested. Several hundred youths on either side of the sectarian divide were involved in the trouble, which lasted for several hours.
The rioting followed several days of clashes in the area, including an attack on two Protestant teenage girls and the stoning of a minibus taking children from the Short Strand.
In a night of violence across Belfast, dissident republicans were blamed for shooting a teenager in the legs at his home in the west of the city. Meanwhile, the home of the daughter of a loyalist killed in a paramilitary feud nine years ago was vandalised. Tracy Coulter accused members of the Ulster Volunteer Force for wrecking her home in the Lower Shankill Road, and vowed to continue to try to bring her father Jackie’s killers to justice.

East Belfast violence condemned (U TV)
Politicians have condemned the violence which broke out in East Belfast on Monday night.
Around 200 republicans and loyalists clashed after trouble flared at an event to celebrate the closure of a police station.
Missiles and other objects were thrown between opposing gangs and at PSNI officers during the violence on the Albertbridge Road in east Belfast.
The road was closed as police tried to restore calm.
Tensions surfaced when a group of republicans gathered at Mountpottinger police station to mark its final day in operation.
The station was one of 26 the Policing Board agreed earlier this month to sell off to the private sector on the recommendation of Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde.
The building is near a notorious interface between the republican enclave of Short Strand and the loyalist Newtownards and Albertbridge Road areas.
Residents in Short Strand have long been campaigning for the station’s closure and had hailed the Policing Board’s decision as a great victory.
Police come under attack during rioting in east Belfast
Speaking on U105, DUP MLA Robin Newton said: “Bringing people on to the streets in this foolhardy and reckless manner, the excuse being the celebration of the closure of a police station, has led to the riot and indeed a situation that has got out of control.”
But Sinn Fein representative Niall Ó Donnghaile has denied claims that the rally led to the trouble.
“The logic of the rally was explained well in advance, the PSNI were aware of it, and it was also held in the middle of the area, as opposed to an interface,” he said.
“I believe and stand over the fact that the people are entitled to celebrate the closure of Mountpottinger given its legacy.”
A police spokesman said officers had discharged a number of baton rounds during the disturbances. He said no arrests had been made and there were no reports of injuries.
Mr Ó Donnghaile said that the use of plastic bullets by the PSNI was completely unjustified.
He also spoke out about an attack on his family home by, what he referred to as “anti-social elements from within the Short Strand community”.
He added: “These are the same anti-social elements who were involved in the interface trouble, which has been ongoing for the past number of weeks. Those involved in such activity are serving no purpose other than attacking the Short Strand community.”
SDLP Deputy Leader Alasdair McDonnell has launched a scathing attack on the decision by Sinn Fein to hold a protest in the area on a Bank Holiday, saying it was “madness”.
He added: “Now Sinn Fein spokesmen are claiming the protest had no connection with the rioting. This is nonsense, the same sort of pernicious nonsense we used to hear from the marching orders after their coat-trailing parades led to violence. Not only could this violence be predicted, it was predicted.”
‘Kiddy rioting’
“If Sinn Fein is once again sponsoring interface kiddy rioting in order to compete with the dissidents for community control, we are in a very dangerous situation. It would send a strong signal that they have abandoned even the lip service they have paid to the concept of a shared future and settled once more for ghetto politics.” he said.
Mr McDonnell also said: “More than two years into devolution, Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinsion are still blocking publication of the Shared Future (Cohesion, Sharing and Integration) strategy. Hugh Orde was right to raise this failure by Sinn Fein and the DUP in his last word on policing.
“It may suit the DUP to block progress, but why is Sinn Fein playing along while local spokesmen are trotting out all the old lines about heavy-handed policing?” He asked.


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