Appeal for calm after tense night in Carrickfergus

Police at the scene of disorder in Carrickfergus on Thursday evening. Picture: Samuel Severn /
Police at the scene of disorder in Carrickfergus on Thursday evening. Picture: Samuel Severn /

There were calls for calm on Friday night amid growing fears over the activities of a rogue branch of the UDA.

There was a strong police presence in Carrickfergus, after burning barricades had been erected in part of the town the previous evening and a vehicle hijacked and torched.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson demanded that “those who call themselves loyalists” think about their actions, and called for “young people and parents not to be duped into doing the will of evil men”.

Disorder on Thursday followed arrests in the town by police investigating another rampage, which had seen properties trashed by a large mob in Larne on March 30.

The South East Antrim faction of the UDA – which has been distanced from the wider grouping over the last several years – was blamed for those incidents, and police warned that it was preparing to launch a wave of unrest in Carrickfergus.

The PSNI said they will “closely monitor” the area in the days ahead, and that significant resources were being devoted to the town on Friday night.

Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said: “There is no easy or nice way to police disorder but we will simply not allow these groups to wreak havoc.”

He called for cool heads, and added this blunt advice for parents: “These groups are parasites on the community – do not let them use your child.”

May Beattie, a DUP councillor living directly in the area where trouble had flared, said the atmosphere was tense.

The 71-year-old councillor, who has lived in the area for around half-a-century, said Thursday’s disorder had erupted just outside Woodlawn Primary School.

Speaking on Friday evening, just as an armoured police van pulled up outside her house, she said: “Don’t forget, there are young children in the town of Carrickfergus who haven’t seen that before.

“They will be questioning, P1 and P2: ‘What’s that vehicle burned there? Why is the road all burned? Why are those bins all burned?’ It’s not a thing you want to try to explain to P1 and P2 children.”

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said it was rumoured that young people associated with the group were being ordered on to the streets.

“The cynical use of young people by the criminal godfathers, who are angry that the police have dared to arrest people suspected of being involved in the disorder in Larne two weeks ago, is disgraceful,” he said in a statement.

“I’d appeal to parents who may suspect their children and teenagers are being dragged into this web of violence and criminality to ensure the whereabouts of their children and not to let them be enticed into any planned disorder.

“Those behind these plans know full well that they are taking vulnerable and easily-led young people into situations which will without doubt get them a criminal record.

He ended by making this plea: “I would appeal to those who call themselves loyalists and claim to want the best for Northern Ireland to rethink their destructive plans.”

David Hilditch, DUP MLA for the area, was out on the streets on Friday night amid the stepped-up police presence.

Although he said Carrickfergus has seen much worse in years gone by, he added: “We’re in 2014, not 1984. This shouldn’t be happening”.