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Teenagers aged 13 and 14 among eight arrests during rioting in loyalist area of south Belfast

There was also rioting in Derry with 27 officers injured across the two cities.
Apr 3rd 2021, 7:34 AM 76,426 98

Updated Apr 3rd 2021, 2:29 PM

FIFTEEN POLICE OFFICERS were injured in what is being described as sustained rioting in a mainly loyalist area of south Belfast that saw teenagers as young as 13 and 14 arrested. 

Officers were targeted by crowds after a local protest developed into an attack on officers after 8pm 

“A total of fifteen officers were injured after being subjected to a sustained attack by rioters who threw a number of objects at police, including heavy masonry, metal rods, fireworks and manhole covers. Their injuries include burns, head and leg injuries,” Belfast District Commander Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said this morning.  

A total of eight arrests were made during the disturbances, seven males and one female, with the PSNI saying their ages ranged between 13 to 25. 

“I am appealing to all those involved to stop this appalling behaviour immediately,” Walls said.

“Police are trying to protect those living in the Shaftesbury Square, Donegall Road and Sandy Row areas and it is completely unacceptable that my officers are coming under sustained attack.

I understand there are significant tensions and unease in some communities. My job is to keep people safe and I would ask that anyone who has any influence in communities – whether parents, guardians, community or elected representatives – please, use that influence to ensure young people are kept safe and away from harm.

His comments were echoed by Stormont Justice Minister and Alliance leader Naomi Long, who said that words used by political leaders “have consequences”.

“This is in no-one’s best interests – not the officers dealing with it and not the mostly young people risking their futures by engaging in it,” she tweeted.

“It’s incumbent on leaders to behave responsibly and dial down the inflammatory rhetoric over recent days.”

Stormont’s First Minister Arlene Foster has urged young people “not to get drawn into disorder”, saying violence “will not make things better”.

“I know that many of our young people are hugely frustrated by the events of this last week but causing injury to police officers will not make things better,” the DUP leader said. 

I appeal to our young people not to get drawn into disorder which will lead to them having criminal convictions and blighting their own lives. I also ask parents to play their part and be proactive in protecting their young adults.

Foster was critical this week of the decision of Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service not to prosecute 24 Sinn Fein politicians for attending the Bobby Storey funeral during Covid-19 restrictions. 

Foster had called for the resignation of the chief constable of PSNI.

In a tweet she had said: “Devastating outcome for public confidence in policing. There will be consequences”. 

Sinn Féin’s Paul Maskey MP said that young people are “being used by sinister elements” and he blamed to DUP for stoking tensions. 

“The DUP and political unionism are failing unionist working class communities through their dangerous and irresponsible rhetoric which has is continuing to lead to heightened tensions,” he said. 

“This is a time for calm heads and responsible leadership.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis described last night’s unrest as “completely unacceptable”.

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The trouble came after four successive nights of disturbances in the unionist Waterside area of Derry.

There was further rioting in Derry last night in the Nelson Drive area in which 12 PSNI officers were injured. Police say that petrol bombs and fireworks were used in the rioting with damage also caused to a care home in the area. 

The disorder has flared amid ongoing tensions within loyalism across Northern Ireland.

Loyalists and unionists are angry about post-Brexit trading arrangements which they claim have created barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Tensions ramped up further this week following the decision over the Bobby Storey funeral. 

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy and Press Association

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