Violence flares again in Belfast leaving about 30 police hurt

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Rioters attacked police in north Belfast in a second consecutive night of violence between Protestants and Catholics. Police said about 30 officers were injured.

Rival factions totaling about 350 people hurled gasoline bombs, acid bombs and stones at officers trying to keep them apart, police said. At least two homemade grenades exploded near police, who said they fired seven plastic bullets in response.

Police said about 30 officers were injured. One soldier suffered burns on his face after being hit by an acid bomb, a spokesman said.

The trouble spread from the original two flashpoints of Twaddell Avenue and Brompton Park in the divided Ardoyne area, to the Protestant Glenbryn neighborhood where rioters seized a car and forced it into military lines.

Youths on the rooftops of Ardoyne shops sent a barrage of stones and gasoline bombs at police, and a homemade grenade was also thrown at police lines. Officers warned they would respond with plastic bullets unless the attacks stopped.

The first day of attacks began Wednesday afternoon when parents arrived to pick up their children from the Holy Cross School, which was at the center of bitter sectarian clashes for months last year.

Late Wednesday, Catholic and Protestant rioters attacked police with fire bombs and acid bombs as well as bricks, bottles and fireworks.

Forty–eight police officers and several civilians were injured. Police said they had hit seven protesters with plastic bullets. Several police vehicles were set afire and destroyed.

New disturbances flared Thursday when Protestant rioters targeted a second Catholic school, Our Lady of Mercy. Seventeen cars in the school grounds were damaged by men who smashed doors and windshields.

Shocked parents said their children were in hysterics and had to be hurried home.

"Is it worth a child's life bringing her to school to be educated?" asked one mother, Marie Bradley.

Protestants and Catholics continued to blame each other for the trouble in the divided Ardoyne section of northern Belfast.

The Holy Cross School was closed, but was to reopen on Friday.

The Rev. Aidan Troy, chairman of the school board of governors, said the board had decided to reopen the school "in the interests of the staff and pupils."

Last fall, Holy Cross school was the target of months of demonstrations by Protestants, who daily blocked the road and shouted insults at the Catholic schoolgirls and their parents. They claimed Catholics had attacked their homes.

The protests, which ended in November, forced police to deploy hundreds of officers backed by British soldiers to ensure the children's safety each day.

Senior politicians, clergy and community leaders on all sides appealed for calm.