Chief Constable praises police 'courage and restraint' after 47 officers were injured amid sectarian rioting in Belfast


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The Independent Online

A Chief Constable has praised “the courage and restraint” of police after 47 officers were injured as they tried to quell sectarian rioting in Belfast.

One officer remains in hospital after suffering serious injuries during the violence last night and early yesterday morning when they were attacked by loyalist and republican mobs.

Matt Baggott, chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said his officers will continue “to act as peacekeepers” but warned the region cannot afford a repeat of the violence. He added: “Others have a responsibility within the community and wider society to resolve the conflict and tensions surrounding parading.”

Intensive behind-the-scenes contacts are already under way in Belfast in an attempt to prevent a recurrence of the rioting in the north of the city.

Political and community representatives are anxious to find agreement on arrangements for a major Orange Order march scheduled to take place in the district on September 29th.

Among those involved in talks will be Northern Ireland’s most senior politicians, unionist first minister Peter Robinson and deputy first minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein.

Sunday night’s violence, which came as hundreds of loyalists took to the streets in protest against a republican march, follows a dispute which first flared in July when a loyalist band stopped outside a Catholic church and played a contentious song.

Officers used water cannon to hose down rioters who threw petrol bombs, bricks, bottles and fireworks at them. Some of those involved were seen breaking up masonry which was hurled at police lines. Police described the attacks on them as “savage.”

Rioters damaged a nearby nursing home, vandalising equipment and setting bins on fire. A spokesman for the home said: “None of our patients was hurt during the incident but this was a very distressing experience for this very vulnerable group of patients, many of whom have dementia conditions.” Police chief superintendent George Clarke said there was no doubt that the disturbances had been organised, adding: “The violence did come from both sides of the community but initially certainly it came from within loyalism.”