Northern Ireland

New Lodge bonfire: Arrests after two men stabbed in north Belfast

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Media captionA video shows a man brandishing a knife in the New Lodge area where police said there had been a number of stabbings

An 18-year-old man is in a critical condition after being stabbed close to a controversial bonfire in Belfast, police have said.

Two men, aged 28 and 21, have been arrested following the incidents in the New Lodge area of north Belfast.

The incidents took place near an anti-internment bonfire on Thursday night.

A 39-year-old man also sustained stab wounds to his arm and hip and is receiving treatment in hospital.

Police said his injuries are not thought to be life threatening at present.

The two men were arrested early on Friday morning at an address off the Oldpark Road, in north Belfast, on suspicion of offences including causing grievous bodily harm with intent.  

Image caption The bonfire was lit close to flats in the New Lodge area

Footage has emerged online which appears to show alleged stabbing incidents.

In one video, a man is seen brandishing what appears to be a large knife.

Ch Insp Kelly Moore said police are "aware of footage circulating on social media and this will be examined as part of the wider investigation".

She appealed for information into the police investigation.

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said the incident was "disgraceful and an example of what this bonfire attracts".

"I watched some of the videos and hope the person wielding this knife has been arrested already," he said.

"If the police had moved in when the bonfire was much lower we would have had a better chance to diffuse the situation," he claimed.

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Media captionNew Lodge bonfire: 'Residents felt control was lost'

On Thursday, three police officers were injured after trouble flared at the site of the bonfire.

The PSNI said some of those trying to attack police lines were using women and children as human shields.

It has been confirmed that the attempted removal was requested by the Department for Infrastructure in conjunction with the Housing Executive.

However, the police later left the site and the bonfire was not dismantled.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd told the Nolan Show the PSNI had received a formal request from landowners to remove the bonfire.

He said the request had "nothing to do with the politics of the bonfire and everything to do with safety, fire risk and the fears people living in that area".

"It had nothing to do with policing different parts of the community differently," he said.

"The vast majority don't want it to be there," he added.

Image caption Victoria Road was barricaded off by young people

He said the police had been deployed to secure the area, the nature of which - the tower blocks, the grounds, the alleyways - meant it was a "tricky operation".

"It takes a significant amount of police to do that. Some style that as heavy-handed, I don't. It's just the logistics of the area," he said.

The senior officer said that attempts to remove the bonfire hit a wall initially because there were a number of young people standing on top of it.

"You can't just collapse it with people on top. That would be irresponsible," he said.

Image copyright Damien Edgar/Downtown/Cool FM
Image caption Three police officers were injured during the rioting on Thursday

'Prams'

He said he watched as violence progressed with sporadic attacks on officers and that the situation became worse as the morning progressed.

He said he saw no early resolution and increasing violence.

ACC Todd said that while he could have lawfully deployed additional resources such as water cannon and public order dogs, the consequences and risk to bystanders "did not stack up".

In a statement, the Department for Infrastructure said the request for contractors to dismantle the "illegal bonfire" was made in conjunction with the Housing Executive as "the materials were located either on the public road, or on lands owned" by the housing body.

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Media captionThree officers are injured in New Lodge trouble

It said it was grateful to the "support of the local community" and that it "regretted that the situation deteriorated to such an extent that it was not possible to make the progress they and we wanted".

"We can assure the community that we will continue to work with our partners and elected representatives going forward to do all we can to prevent this situation arising in the future," it said.

Last month, Belfast City Council requested contractors to intervene at a bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre in east Belfast.

It was not removed, after threats were issued against those involved.

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