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Up to 60 youths take part in pre-arranged sectarian fight

The sectarian clash took place near Woodbourne Police station in west Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell
Marie Louise McConville

A crowd of up to 60 Catholic and Protestant youths armed with sticks and bricks have clashed at a Belfast interface in a pre-arranged sectarian fight.

Community workers called to the Suffolk/Lenadoon interface on Monday night found a large group of young people fighting.

Social networking site Facebook was soon filled with details of the trouble, with one community organisation reporting that they were "dealing with a crowd from Suffolk and one from Lenadoon who are involved in hand to hand fighting right outside Woodbourne Barracks...".

Other comments added: "Madness! It's getting beyond a joke now it's not just weekends", while another added: "Seriously this is not on its not just about messing about its about respect for people living here...".

Sinn Féin councillor Stephen Magennis said those involved in the fight on the Stewartstown Road "just got straight into each other".

"There was no standing about or shouting, they clashed right away. It's worrying that the two sides were able to organise it that way," he said.

Mr Magennis said a lot of good work had gone on in the area to combat such behaviour and this work would continue.

He said the homes of youths who were recognised in the crowd would be visited and their parents informed.

"We will not be tolerating that behaviour...," he said.

Colin Halliday, chairman of South Belfast Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG), said those involved in the fight had armed themselves in advance.

"These guys were running about with sticks and bricks and there was the potential for someone to be seriously injured," he said.

Mr Halliday said there had also been criticism of police response times to incidents in the area.

"When they are called out by community reps they do take their time. We believe they could be quicker. I think there needs to be a more visible police presence in the area to deter these people."

When asked about the incident, Chief Inspector for West Belfast Anthony McNally said officers were at the scene "within five minutes and dispersed the groups, liaised with community representatives and remained in the area".

Chief Inspector McNally said police would "continue to monitor reports of antisocial behaviour and respond appropriately" and appealed to parents "to make sure they know where their children are, what they are doing, and to talk to them about the danger of getting caught up in the moment and the possible outcomes they could face if they are found committing any offence".

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