CHURCH and community leaders in Rathcoole have condemned the public disorder associated with ongoing flag protests, describing the actions of rioters as “pointless violence”.
They spoke out this week following another weekend of serious civil unrest at Cloughfern Corner during which police were targeted by rioters throwing stones, bottles and petrol bombs.
Following talks between clergy from several local churches and community and political representatives for the area, a spokesperson for the group issued a statement calling for an end to the trouble.
The statement - issued on behalf of Rathcoole Presbyterian, Newtownabbey Methodist Mission, St Comgall’s Church of Ireland, Belfast City Mission, Church of the Ascension, Rathcoole Baptist, Abbots Cross Presbyterian, South and East Antrim Community Federation, Progressive Unionist Party, DUP, UUP, Rathcoole Friends of the Somme, Breakaway Blues, Newtownabbey Women’s Group and the Ulster People’s Forum - said: “The churches and community groups of Newtownabbey request that those involved in the trouble associated with the flag protests should stop now. We would add that those who come from outside the area to riot and cause disturbance are not welcome.
“The rioting does absolutely nothing to promote any cause, but rather is damaging this community and causing further suffering.”
It continues: “The signatories have their individual views about the current protests, but all support the right to peaceful, legal protests. This plea is about stopping the pointless violence; this fear and wanton destruction is being caused by a minority.”
Following allegations from some protesters and bystanders of police brutality and heavy handed tactics by the PSNI’s Tactical Support Group officers (riot police), the church and community leaders have appealed to anyone with complaints about the actions of the PSNI to take their grievances to the Police Ombudsman.
The statement concludes: “On behalf of those who live, work or have a vested interest in Newtownabbey, although we may have our differences of opinions about many matters, we are united in our determination to stop this community from suffering further.”