DUP says attacks on police must stop but denies unionists to blame for scenes of disorder

The DUP has hit back at accusations from Sinn Fein that Arlene Foster’s party are to blame for the disturbances taking place in loyalist areas.

Sunday, 4th April 2021, 5:42 pm
Police were attacked with petrol bombs and fireworks in Newtownabbey. Officers were targeted at the Cloughfern roundabout in the O'Neill Road area. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.

Gregory Campbell demanded an apology from Gerry Kelly for his arrogance in failing to recognise Sinn Fein’s role in creating the anger that has turned to violence in some parts of the Province.

The exchange between the DUP MP and Sinn Fein MLA comes as tensions within loyalism across NI have led to several nights of disorder.

Three cars were highjacked and set alight on Saturday evening in Newtownabbey, while petrol bombs were thrown at police.

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Violent scenes were also witnessed in the Sandy Row area of Belfast on Friday as well as several nights of rioting in Londonderry.

Loyalists and unionists are angry about post-Brexit trading arrangements which they claim have created barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Tensions ramped up further this week following a controversial decision not to prosecute 24 Sinn Fein politicians for attending a large-scale republican funeral during Covid-19 restrictions.

All the main unionist parties have demanded the resignation of PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne, claiming he has lost the confidence of their community.

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly claimed the disturbances were “a direct consequence of the actions of political unionism”.

“The disturbances in loyalist areas across the north are an outworking of the DUP’s rhetoric and undermining of the PSNI and criminal justice system,” he said.

“By their words and actions they have sent a very dangerous message to young people in loyalist areas.

“The DUP and political unionist leaders need to show leadership and end the incendiary rhetoric.”

DUP MP Gregory Campbell called for calm and urged attacks on the police to stop. He also challenged Gerry Kelly to apologise for “condescending and arrogant” comments about young loyalists.

Mr Campbell said: “Those attacking the police should stop. Rioting and injuring rank and file officers will result in young people being criminalised.

“For Gerry Kelly and Sinn Fein to comment on the frustrations on our streets without recognising the major part they played in creating that anger is arrogance personified.

“SF helped organise an IRA man’s funeral where 2,000 people attended when other people couldn’t even have some of their own children at the funeral of a loved one.

“Gerry Kelly and co need to get real. People aren’t taps that some politician can turn on or off. Riots on the streets, just as they must be condemned, it also has to be realised that they are a symptom of the manner in which Sinn Fein has played fast and loose with the Covid rules whilst zealously demanding everyone else obey them.”

Meanwhile seven people have been charged with riot after the disturbances in the Sandy Row area.

Four adults – three men aged 25, 21 and 18, and a woman, aged 19 – have been charged with riot, along with three teenagers, aged 17, 14 and 13. They are due to appear in court on April 30.

Arising from the disorder in Newtownabbey police have charged a 47-year-old man with riot and throwing a petrol bomb. He is due in court on Monday, April 26.

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