Northern Ireland news

DUP MP Gregory Campbell criticises Catholic bishop's remark on rioters

DUP MP Gregory Campbell criticised Catholic bishop Dr Donal McKeown. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

BISHOP of Derry Donal McKeown has been accused of giving "a rationale for rioters" behind serious disorder in Derry, after referring to "young people who feel life is passing them by".

DUP MP Gregory Campbell described his comments as "well meaning" but deeply concerning.

Over six consecutive nights of rioting, shots were fired at police and scores of petrol bombs were thrown.

Police chiefs have named dissident republican group the New IRA as orchestrating the violence.

Urged an end to the violence at a solidarity rally in the city on Friday, Bishop McKeown said "some communities that suffered much in the past are still suffering disadvantage.

"There are young people who feel life is passing them by and looking down on them."

He added: "All deserve to be cherished equally."

The enclosed yard in Derry's Bogside where youths gathered during several nights of rioting in the city. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

Mr Campbell said the rioters "tried to attack residents in the (Protestant) Fountain estate as well as the police".

"Bishop Donal McKeown has on two separate occasions, while condemning the rioters, made references to 'not demonising' those carrying out the attacks and to 'their disadvantages'.

"Many people who are law abiding and raising families, despite lots of disadvantages, are deeply concerned at the bishop's comments which, however well meaning, could be interpreted as a rationale for rioters.

"... We must give no grounds whatsoever for a belief that law breakers have cover from someone trying to explain their motives in a way they can take justification from."

Tánaiste Simon Coveney visiting Derry's Bogside. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

A 17-year-old boy and 22-year-old man will appear at Omagh Magistrate's Court today to face a range of charges relating to the serious rioting.

A 15-year-old boy has also been charged with rioting and throwing petrol bombs. He is to appear before Derry Magistrate's Court today.

However, a complaint has been made to the Police Ombudsman after another teenager, who it is alleged was "cable-tied" during his arrest, was released unconditionally.

His solicitor Ciaran Shiels of Madden & Finucane said civil proceedings for unlawful arrest, trespass to the person will be brought on behalf of the teenager, who he said "had absolutely no involvement" in the trouble.

The 17-year-old is charged with possessing petrol bombs in suspicious circumstances; riotous behaviour and throwing petrol bombs.

A 22-year-old is charged with three counts of possessing explosives with intent to endanger life, riotous behaviour, making petrol bombs, possessing petrol bombs in suspicious circumstances and indecent exposure.

DUP leader Arlene Foster and Gary Middleton MLA after visiting Alexander House, a residential home for older people, on Bishop Street in Derry on Saturday. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

On Saturday, a 50-year-old man admitted disorderly behaviour in the Bogside.

A court heard William McConnell, a painter from Glendale Gardens, was seen trying to erect a makeshift barricade out of debris on Fahan Street.

The court was told when officers asked him to stop he refused, became aggressive and threw a beer can hitting a police vehicle.

He has been banned from entering the Bogside and the Brandywell and will appear before the court again in August.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney pictured with mayor John Boyle and Martina Anderson MEP in Derry's Bogside. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

Taniste Simon Coveney and DUP leader Arlene Foster visited the city simultaneously but separately on Saturday, which saw a second "incident-free" night.

Accompanied by Mr Campbell, Mrs Foster went to the Fountain estate.

Mrs Foster said: "I wanted to come today to stand in solidarity with the people - yes in the Fountain - but everybody in the city.

"To say to them 'those law abiding people who live here in the city of Londonderry have to be allowed to live in peace here'."

Tánaiste Simon Coveney climbs out of an area of waste ground in Derry's Bogside where youths gathered during violence in the city. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

Mr Coveney met police and residents from the Bogside.

The Taniste said it was great to meet PSNI officers to thank them for their service "at the end of a difficult week".

"Last night, things were a lot calmer, so I think that's positive news and hopefully we can repeat that in the nights ahead," Mr Coveney said.

"But certainly the previous number of nights were not what we want to see or expect to see anymore, coming from a city like Derry, which has done extraordinary things in recent years towards ensuring the communities can live together peacefully."

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