Children urged to join Belfast riots by texting

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The Independent Online

Children are using mobile phones to encourage their friends to take part in riots in north Belfast, it has been warned.

The shock claim has been made following a third night of serious disturbances in the Ardoyne area during which police came under attack with petrol bombs.

One police officer was injured and two teenagers arrested after petrol bombs, fireworks, bricks and bottles were thrown during violence which continued into the early hours of this morning.

Meanwhile a second man was arrested today in relation to shots being fired at police during rioting in the area on Monday night when 21 officers were injured. The 30-year-old was arrested in north Belfast early this morning and was being questioned at Antrim Serious Crime Suite.

A 28-year-old man was arrested yesterday in connection with the shooting. A peaceful protest was held outside Antrim Road police station by the man’s supporters.

Parish priest Fr Gary Donegan was in the Ardoyne area last night trying to restore calm. He said he witnessed young people phoning their friends to encourage them to join in the rioting telling them, “It’s mighty, it’s the place to be”.

He said the young people were so excited by the violence “you would have thought they were at Euro Disney instead of a riot”.

Children as young as 10 have been seen taking part in some of the worst violence that Northern Ireland has seen in a number of years.

Dissident republicans have been blamed for orchestrating Monday night’s riots with the intent of murdering police officers. However, Fr Donegan said the young people have now got a taste for the violence which he fears may now be difficult to stop.

“What happened on Monday seems to have taken on a life of its own. We were hoping it would have calmed down but with a third night, and seeing it carry on so long, it is very disheartening. I think in the beginning you could hold the view it was orchestrated but it is a commonly held view that once that type of situation has been established and the young people have a taste for it, it seems you are pushing an uphill battle,” he said.

Fr Donegan added: “I saw young people last night ringing each other on mobile phones saying come on up, it’s mighty, it’s the place to be. They were getting very excited. You would think they were at Euro Disney rather than a riot. They are recording it on their phones and passing it on to others through those social networking sites.”

He said the sustained violence is ruining the area and it is now time for a collective approach from the PSNI and everyone that has influence in the community to try and stop the disturbances.

Sporadic incidents of disorder broke out at around 9pm last night when crowds of youths began to gather in the Springfield Road and Legoniel Road areas of north Belfast. Intense violence flared at around 11pm when a crowd that had gathered in the Brompton Park area started throwing petrol bombs and other missiles at police. A car was also set on fire and there were reports of an attempted hijacking. One police officer sustained injuries to his head and foot. Police said that calm was finally restored around 1.30am this morning.

A PSNI spokeswoman said officers maintained a presence in the area throughout the night.

“We would appeal to all of those with influence in the community to work with us to bring this disorder to an end,” she said

* Source: Belfast Telegraph.