Four PSNI officers injured during ex-IRA bomber protest
- 31 January 2014
- From the section Northern Ireland
Four police officers suffered minor injuries as protesters threw fireworks and stones at a community centre in east Belfast where a former IRA bomber was a guest speaker.
About 50 people gathered at the Skainos centre on the Newtownards Road shortly before the man responsible for the Brighton bomb, Patrick Magee, arrived.
They threw stones and four police officers suffered minor injuries.
The windows of two police vehicles were also smashed.
Patrick Magee and Jo Berry, who lost her father in the bomb, went in together through a back door at the building.
Both were taking part in a festival called: Listening to Your Enemies.
The crowd surged forward, shouted abuse and threw missiles. But there was a heavy police presence and the protesters were forced back off the premises.
After the event on Thursday evening, more stones were thrown and police lines came under fire.
Police have begun an inquiry into the disorder.
First Minister Peter Robinson, who is an MLA for the area, said those who caused the violence had not challenged republicanism, but had inflicted damage on their community.
"The actions of those who attacked the Skainos centre and the police are to be condemned," Mr Robinson said.
"Those rioting on the streets did not challenge republicans, instead they took the focus away from a debate which heard how the republican terror campaign ended in failure."
East Belfast MP Naomi Long, Alliance Party, said: "There can be no justification for the violence that has occurred. I would appeal for calm in the area.
"The event at the Skainos centre is part of a dialogue that should be allowed to take place. It is important that everybody respects the rights of those who wish to take part in reconciliation events, and that they are allowed to do so without such negative scenes as we have seen tonight.
"It is deeply disappointing that this trouble has occurred at an event which is aimed at breaking down the barriers in our society."
East Belfast community worker Jim Wilson said he had been verbally abused as he came out of the talk.
He said he had gone to confront Magee about the republican view of events during the Troubles.
"I defended the people's right outside to protest, I defended their right to have a different view. I believe we need to challenge Sinn Féin and the story they are telling throughout the world.
"When I came out, I got verbal abuse from my own community. My car was hit with bricks. I was called a traitor."
Mr Wilson said he was now re-considering his position.
"I was so hurt about what happened last night, because I have been working with this community for 40 years," he said.
Earlier on Thursday, anti-republican graffiti was discovered on the Skainos building which belongs to the east Belfast Methodist mission.
Mr Wilson had said people were entitled to their views, but they should be expressed peacefully.
Rev Gary Mason, from the east Belfast mission, said: "The police were out first thing this morning and they have looked at it.
"We have video evidence as well because this is a new site so there are a number of security cameras so the folk that did that are on camera."
Patrick Magee was behind the bombing of Brighton's Grand Hotel during the Tory Party Conference in 1984.
It killed five people and injured 34, including Lord Tebbit and his wife. The prime minister at the time, Margaret Thatcher, had a narrow escape.
Jo Berry lost her father, Sir Anthony Berry, in the atrocity. She has since forgiven Magee for the attack.
In recent years, Magee has been associated with projects that work with groups specialising in conflict resolution, reconciliation and victim support.
Police are treating the Skainos graffiti incident as a hate crime.