Northern Ireland

Belfast disorder: Extra PSNI patrols deployed

Youth on top of New Lodge bonfire Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption There are tensions in republican areas of Belfast after the council moved in to restrict some anti-internment bonfires

Extra police patrols are being deployed in Belfast after a series of attacks on officers, cars and property by youths in nationalist areas of the city.

The trouble began on Monday after council contractors removed material from an anti-internment bonfire in the Markets area, near the city centre.

On Tuesday night, North Queen St was closed for a time due to a car on fire.

The road is near a bonfire in the New Lodge and it is understood a number of petrol bombs were thrown on the road.

However, police said the road had reopened to traffic shortly after 23:00 BST and was "passable with care".

Bonfires are traditionally lit in some republican areas to mark the anniversary of the introduction of internment - detention without trial - on 9 August 1971.

Council worker injured

Belfast City Council recently passed a motion to say that contractors would remove material from bonfire that posed a risk to safety.

However, on Tuesday evening the council told the BBC that it no longer has a contractor in place.

On Monday, shortly after material was taken away from a bonfire in the Markets, a number of parked cars were set on fire and petrol bombs, stones and other missiles were thrown at police.

Later that evening, trouble spread to other areas and a disused credit union building was set on fire in west Belfast.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption A former credit union was set on fire in west Belfast on Monday night

Belfast City Council staff have also been targeted and on Tuesday, the council confirmed that one of its workers had been injured when a stone was thrown at a council vehicle.

The member of staff received a cut to the head when the windscreen of their vehicle was smashed.

A council spokesperson said it was one of two separate incidents in which stones were thrown at its vehicles.

'12-year-olds'

It also confirmed that some street cleansing and commercial waste collections were restricted in the Markets, New Lodge and Divis areas on Tuesday.

Community centres in the New Lodge, Divis and Markets areas closed to the public at 17:00 BST.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Belfast City Council workers cleaned up after a day of trouble in Belfast

In a statement about Monday's attacks, the PSNI said officers had dealt with "localised disorder caused by a small group of people" - some as young as 12 - in the Markets, New Lodge and North Queen Street areas.

Police are gathering evidence to bring those involved before the courts.

They have also appealed for parents to be aware of their children's whereabouts.

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Media captionCars were set on fire during Monday's unrest in Belfast

Cars destroyed

Police helped the fire service to deal with Monday night's blaze, which started at about 21:00 BST at the former credit union on Ross Road in west Belfast.

A bus was also damaged on the Falls Road a few hours later.

Supt Andrea McMullan said: "I would like to reassure the public that police patrols across Belfast will be increased over the coming days in an effort to curb this violence.

"I would also call on those with influence in local communities to exert some control in an effort to dissuade any repetition of this behaviour."

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption The police said it assisted the fire service in dealing with the blaze

She described the attacks as "senseless and unacceptable".

"It achieves nothing - creating only inconvenience, disruption and misery for the local community," she added.

On Monday afternoon, three cars were destroyed after they were set on fire and five other vehicles were damaged by stones and paint in the Markets.

Later in the evening about 100 young people, including children aged 12, gathered in the area.

Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown described the scenes in Belfast as "disgraceful" and said they must be "condemned in the strongest terms".

"The responsibility for last night's behaviour rests solely with the people who carried it out," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

Image copyright PACEMAKER
Image caption Young people threw stones and damaged cars during Monday's unrest

"The agreement to remove materials was agreed by all parties and I think this is not the first test of the issue."

Sinn Féin councillor Deirdre Hargey said residents in the Markets area were "completely disgusted" at the trouble.

Image caption Debris remains on Ross Road in west Belfast

"They don't want this and those involved in this disgusting behaviour are not representative of this community," she added.

Ms Hargey said she did not expect the level of anti-social behaviour and vandalism and did not believe it was "completely linked" to Belfast City Council's decision to tackle dangerous bonfires.

"There have been ongoing incidents and I think a large part of those who have been involved in incidents either in the Markets, or especially in Divis, are involved in vandalism every other day of the year," she added.

"They have just used this as an opportunity or an excuse to carry out this type of behaviour that they do every other day."

She said she was concerned that there were "older, more sinister elements involved in trying to encourage younger people into this activity", but did not think they were dissident republicans.

On Twitter, the PSNI also "thanked those in affected communities who helped settle tensions" on Monday evening.

Meanwhile, a bonfire has been rebuilt close to the New Lodge flats, on Queen Street in north Belfast, despite weeks of efforts to remove pallets and other bonfire material from the neighbourhood.

Youths were pictured posing atop of rows of pallets stacked on the bonfire, which was expected to be lit later on Tuesday.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Bonfires are lit in some republican areas to mark the anniversary of the introduction of interment, or detention without trial

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