Belfast teenagers using Facebook to plan riots that have injured more than 60 police officers over three nights
Belfast-born David McKittrick has been reporting on Northern Ireland since 1971, He has written for the East Antrim Times, the Irish Times and was The Independent's Irish correspondent for many years. He is the author of several books including Making Sense of the Troubles (2000) and Lost Lives (1999).
Wednesday 05 September 2012
Teenagers charged with involvement in recent sectarian rioting in Belfast have been keeping in touch through Facebook, a court in the city was told today.
The revelation came as political leaders held emergency meetings in an attempt to defuse tensions which have led to injuries to more than 60 police officers in three nights of rioting in the north of the city.
Police have said they have no direct evidence of the involvement of loyalist paramilitary groups in disturbances, although they knew members of such organisations had been involved in rioting.
Unionist first minister Peter Robinson and deputy first minister Martin McGuinness are leading attempts to find compromise arrangements in advance of a major loyalist parade to be held in the area on September 29th.
A Belfast youth court today heard that teenagers had arranged to take part in disturbances through Facebook. A lawyer for a 15-year-old charged with riotous assembly said he had used the social networking site to learn that rioting was due to take place at Carlisle Circus, the focal point of disturbances.
The lawyer said: “These things go on Facebook, they all talk to each other, they get excited and they end up down at a place they definitely shouldn't be.”
Police opposed bail for two teenagers on the grounds that the ongoing disorder was putting at risk the lives of officers, the public and the rioters themselves.
But District Judge George Conner granted bail, banning the teenagers from using social networking media and ordering them not to go within 500 metres of Carlisle Circus.
He told them: “Tempted as we are to make an example of you so that can go out on Facebook, we are going to give you a chance. If you receive a message from any of your friends or anybody you don't know saying there's rioting going on you ignore it.”
Efforts to calm the situation took place against a background of continuing strong condemnation of the disorder from senior Protestant church figures. A spokesman for the Methodist church was unusually critical of Mr Robinson, saying it was unacceptable for him to have kept silent recently.
He added: “The people of Northern Ireland expect leadership from their government to help alleviate tensions and bring peace back to our streets,” adding that Mr Robinson had done little to instil community confidence.
Mr Robinson said tensions were very high but that his role “is to ensure that we don't add to those difficulties by things that are said and done.” He said if less was said “we might be in a much better position to try and resolve these issues,” and that difficulties would only be resolved on the basis of mutual respect.
Martin McGuinness described the recent violence as “deplorable, disgraceful and shameful.” Accusing the Orange Order of a lack of leadership, he added: “This is a time for leadership, a time for people to stand together against violence.”
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Russian hack of President Obama's emails worse than previously admitted
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Nepal earthquake: US Pastor Tony Miano sparks outcry by suggesting Nepalis should convert and not rebuild their 'pagan shrines'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in