Pastor appeals for calm heads and dialogue

A heavy police presence moved into make arrests after another night of trouble on the O'Neill Road.
A heavy police presence moved into make arrests after another night of trouble on the O'Neill Road.

A Rathcoole pastor has called for calm heads and people to step away from violence after three nights of sporadic trouble in the O’Neill Road area.

Trouble first flared with police coming under attack by stone throwers on Saturday, July 13.

Violence escalated on Sunday night with at least two cars being hijacked, bins set on fire and police again attacked by stone throwers.

When asked what kind of trouble occurred on Sunday evening a PSNI spokesman would only say officers were “faced with disorder” in the area.

However, the Times understands there was a small number of youths actively engaged in disorder with the police while up to 200 people looked on.

On Monday night, trouble erupted again. This time a bin from a nearby business was set alight and police were attacked again by stone throwers.

Trouble again flared on Tuesday night with police again coming under attack.

Residents have claimed the police aggravated the situation with their presence, however others said officers were only responding to trouble and acting on their duty to uphold the law.

It’s thought the violence erupted after calls for a protest in the area in response to the Parades Commission’s decision to restrict an Orange Order march through the Ardoyne area of north Belfast.

The violence over the three nights was described as “low-key” and nowhere near the level of trouble witnessed in the area during the flag protests earlier this year and last December.

Paul Hamill, from Belfast City Mission in Rathcoole, called for calm and for people to engage with the political process.

He has been working among the community to help ease tensions over the past couple of days.

He said there was a “developing negative attitude towards the police” growing in the area among young people.

He said: “We need calm heads and for people to take a step back.

“Violence does not achieve anything and while it is fine calling for peaceful protest, the reality is that they can and often do lead to violence.

“Trouble just harms the image of our community.

“We need people to engage with the political process - that is where ground has been lost and the only rightful place where we can win back ground.”