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Crowds gather to watch an Eleventh Night bonfire this week. Alamy Stock Photo
the twelfth

Eleven on-duty ambulance staff attacked in the North in early hours of the Twelfth

Five staff were physically attacked, including being punched, kicked, bitten and spat at in one incident.

ELEVEN ON-DUTY AMBULANCE staff in Northern Ireland were assaulted over an “unprecedented” six-hour period overnight on 11 July into the early hours of the Twelfth.

The “Eleventh Night” fires are traditionally lit on the eve of the “Twelfth of July” – a day when members of Protestant loyal orders parade to commemorate the Battle of Boyne in 1690.

The battle, which unfolded at the Boyne river, saw Protestant King William of Orange defeat Catholic King James II to secure a Protestant line of succession to the British Crown.

In a statement from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS), a spokesperson noted that 11 July is one of the busiest nights for all emergency services and that NIAS staff are “under considerable pressure to respond to many calls for assistance”.

However, the statement said “this is made even more difficult when our staff experience physical and verbal assaults when trying to protect the community”.

The NIAS said the most serious of the incidents happened at a bonfire site in the Carrickfergus area.

Five staff were physically attacked, including being punched, kicked, bitten and spat at, said the NIAS statement.

“They also had threats made on their lives. Those assaulted at this call included a Paramedic Student who is unlikely to have experienced anything like this before,” added the NIAS.

The other assaults on staff took place in the Forthriver area of Belfast, in Belfast City Centre and in the Ballymacash area of Lisburn.

The NIAS spokesperson said it is “totally unacceptable that crews should experience any form of physical and verbal assault while they perform their duties”.

Responding to the attacks on ambulance staff, NIAS chief executive Michael Bloomfield said the 11 staff “should have had a reasonable expectation that their night would involve nothing more than using their skills to ensure the safety of the communities we serve”.

Bloomfield said it is “absolutely disgraceful that during the night they should be abused in the manner in which they were”.

“I spent time with our crews across Belfast on 11th July and saw first-hand the professionalism and compassion they brought to all those who needed their care,” said Bloomfield.

“This is in such stark contrast to the actions of those who behaved in this way towards them. 

“I can only imagine the fear these dedicated staff must have experienced in the face of this aggression.

“Our staff, and all emergency services staff, need the full support of everyone in the community, and I would appeal to anyone who has information that may lead to the arrest of the perpetrators of these attacks, to bring that information to PSNI.”

The NIAS chief executive added that “it is a very sad reflection on some in our community that these incidents continue to happen”.

Bloomfield said staff will be supported over the coming days and weeks.

“Physical injuries will be quickest to heal. The mental distress will likely remain with them for some time to come,” added Bloomfield.

He called on “those with influence in communities” to use that influence to “stress the unacceptability of such assaults, and to raise awareness of the impact such actions have on local communities”.

Bloomfield also called for “the full weight of the judicial system to be brought to bear on anyone found guilty of attacking our crews”.

The PSNI today said a 24-year-old woman has been charged with three counts of assault on police and disorderly behaviour following an incident in the Ballymacash Road area of Lisburn when NI Ambulance Service staff were in attendance. 

She is expected to appear before Lisburn Magistrates’ Court on 7 August.

A PSNI spokesperson said there were four reports in total relating to attacks on 11 ambulance service staff on Tuesday, 11 July and early hours of Wednesday, 12 July.

A 22-year-old was arrested in the Carrickfergus area on 11th July where five members of ambulance service staff reported being assaulted as they attended to offer medical support. 

The man was released on street bail to return for further questioning at a later date.

Meanwhile, a 24-year-old man was brought to hospital following an injury sustained at a bonfire in the Forthriver Road area of north Belfast.

While in hospital, he became verbally and physically aggressive to hospital and ambulance staff.

He was de-arrested pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service

A paramedic then reported that while parked outside the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, he was assaulted and police enquiries into this incident are continuing.

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