New Lodge bonfire violence ‘orchestrated’: PSNI

A senior police officer has described scenes in three consecutive nights of disorder in north Belfast as “reckless, dangerous and unacceptable criminal behaviour”.

Thursday, 1st August 2019, 6:31 pm
PSNI superintendent Melanie Jones speaks to media at Musgrave Street police station in Belfast. Photo: Rebecca Black/PA Wire

Stones, missiles and petrol bombs were thrown at officers amid the disorder in the North Queen Street area.

Superintendent Melanie Jones described a “small group of people” as being involved, but said she believes there is an element orchestrating the trouble.

She said she believes teenagers and young people aged in their early twenties were being encouraged to draw police into confrontation.

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“For the third night in a row, the community of north Belfast has been subjected to anti-social behaviour and criminal behaviour in the North Queen Street area,” she said.

“Local people have the right to feel safe and secure in their own homes, local people also have the right to expect that their local police are able to respond to their calls for assistance without being hindered by reckless, dangerous and unacceptable criminal behaviour.

“I have personally reviewed our operational plans and want to reassure our communities that there will be specific dedicated officers deployed into the area this evening. That’s a combination of local neighbourhood officers supported by specialist officers and evidence-gathering teams. I have also dedicated resources to the investigation and we are following dedicated lines of inquiry.

“Those involved in last night’s incident and the previous nights should expect further investigation and where the evidence exists, we will be arresting people and bringing them to justice.”

Supt Jones added an appeal to parents to know where their children are.

“It’s absolutely critical that I appeal once again to the parents of young people, know where your children are, know who they are with, know what they are doing,” she said.

“It’s simply not acceptable that communities are being subjected to this, it’s intolerable, it’s inexcusable and it’s dangerous.”

A bonfire has been built in the area ahead of internment night next week.

August 9 marks the anniversary of the introduction of internment without trial. Operation Demetrius in 1971 saw hundreds arrested across Northern Ireland.