Northern Ireland news

No-one arrested and no homes raided over UVF violence

Police presence at the Bloomfield Walkway bonfire after it was set alight prematurely as contractors were about to remove it Picture Mal McCann.

The PSNI have not made any arrests or searched a single property in connection with violence in east Belfast and north Down, despite warning the public they had information loyalist paramilitaries intended to orchestrate attacks linked to the removal of two controversial bonfires.

A bonfire at Bloomfield walkway in east Belfast was set on fire by loyalists at around 5am last Wednesday, July 11, as riot police and contractors moved in to enforce a court order holding the landowner, the Department for Infrastructure, responsible for the towering pyre.

A second bonfire, built on the road close to a listed building at Cluan Place, was later removed by masked contractors, hired from outside of Northern Ireland and protected by around 200 riot police.

Police later warned they had information that the east Belfast UVF intended to "orchestrate disorder" across parts of Belfast and North Down.

However, despite two days of disturbances and numerous bomb alerts - including one that closed the City Airport for several hours - 16 vehicles were set on fire, including a bus hijacked at gunpoint in the West Winds estate in Newtownards, there were no arrests.

A PSNI spokesperson told the Irish News that they have not made any arrests or conducted any searches in east Belfast, Bangor or Newtownards, despite the loyalist violence.

Last week the Irish News reported that DUP councillors had held meeting with senior loyalists, linked to the UVF, prior to the weekend's attacks.

Councillor Lee Reynolds had attended a late night meeting attended by loyalist Stephen Matthews that ran into the early hours of Wednesday July 11 in a last-ditch effort to resolve the bonfire dispute in east Belfast.

Previous engagement with DUP councillor George Dorrian and senior UVF linked loyalists had also taken place prior to last week's court injunction.

Mr Dorrian, along with PUP councillor Dr John Kyle, was part of a panel that carried out a detailed report into bonfires. He said he felt the controversial engagement was important to "build on that".

"We have seen progress and a number of new initiatives across the city, which were clearly a success, the key being they were developed by local communities", he said.

"I said at the outset I would engage anyone anywhere who could bring a positive influence and I stand by that commitment.

"Problems do still exist but engagement will continue throughout the year ahead until satisfactory outcomes are reached.

"This is a long term project and we will have achieved our goal when no bonfire can be reasonably deemed to threaten anyone or their property", Mr Dorrian added.

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