Police in Northern Ireland braced for more parade violence

 

Police in Northern Ireland are bracing themselves for a fresh wave of violence today after officers came under sustained attack during riots that again proved that no solution has been found to the parades problem.

As Belfast counts the cost of the latest eruption of violence, officers are preparing for another contested parade in the border village of Castlederg, County Tyrone.

Police described as "mindless anarchy" the activities of loyalist rioters who injured 56 officers on Friday night when half-bricks, pieces of metal and debris flew through the air in Belfast's main shopping street, Royal Avenue.

One of the most striking images of the clashes was that of a semi-conscious policeman stretched out on the street for 30 minutes while colleagues, working under a hail of missiles, administered first aid. Police responded by dousing loyalists with water cannon, firing 26 plastic baton rounds and arresting seven people for offences including riotous behaviour, disorderly behaviour and hijacking.

Today's march, organised by Sinn Fein, has been condemned by local people who claim it will glorify the IRA, which killed almost 30 people in the area during the Troubles. But Sinn Fein has argued that the event, to mark the deaths of two IRA members whose bomb prematurely detonated 40 years ago, is intended as a commemoration, not a celebration.

The marching issue will top the agenda for talks later this year under the chairmanship of the former US diplomat Richard Haass, who has been invited by local parties to tackle issues they have been unable to resolve.

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