Belfast teenagers using Facebook to plan riots that have injured more than 60 police officers over three nights

 

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.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine