SENIOR police officers have claimed that Friday night’s rioting at Cloughfern Corner was “arranged and pre-planned”. However, they say that investigations are continuing into who was responsible for orchestrating the violence.
Claims have been made that the UVF and the UDA have been responsible for organising civil unrest in several areas of Northern Ireland in recent weeks, but local police haven’t pointed the finger of blame at either paramilitary organisation.
“Who’s behind it and why and what their agenda is, I don’t know,” said Inspector Alan McKeown.
“Time will tell. Whenever we see the arrests come in we’ll know the dynamics of it,” Chief Inspector Stephen Reid added.
More than 100 PSNI officers have been hurt in disturbances across Northern Ireland since early December, including four at Cloughfern Corner on Friday night and another Neighbourhood Officer at O’Neill Road on January 4. Several have sustained broken bones and serious facial injuries.
Across D District (Newtownabbey, Antrim, Carrickfergus and Lisburn) 35 arrests have been made and 29 people charged in relation to trouble at flag protests.
While there were no arrests made during the latest violence at Cloughfern Corner, Chief Inspector Reid stressed that officers do make arrests when possible, but added that it can be difficult for them to detain people during serious public disorder when they are coming under sustained and violent attack.
Stressing that overall crime across borough is down by 12 per cent, the Area Commander said that his officers will continue to be proactive in gathering evidence against troublemakers with a view to making further arrests in the coming days and weeks.
“I am extremely proud of my officers, who have been holding the line for the last six or seven weeks. They have worked long hours and several of them have sustained injuries, yet they have shown great personal and professional commitment to deliver a protective policing service to keep all of the community safe.”
The Chief Inspector also thanked local community representatives and PCSP members who have worked with the police over recent weeks in a bid to quell tensions at protests.
“We will continue to police things, and we hope that the politicians will be able to use their influence, and that people within communities who have influence will use that influence in a positive way and that they will help settle things and discourage people from public disorder,” he added.
For more coverage and reaction see this week’s Times...