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Airport violence raises serious questions

Belfast International Airport's departure lounge was the scene of disgraceful violence at the weekend, as passengers engaged in a vicious fight, leaving onlookers frightened and distressed.

From the accounts of eyewitnesses and from video which was posted on social media, it is clear that this was a shocking incident, with a large number of men attacking each other with metal poles, mops, shopping baskets and even a fire extinguisher.

One of those who filmed the melee, said to involve two groups of passengers, said it was 'absolute mayhem'.

The airport has defended itself against criticism over the length of time it took for police to intervene, insisting the disturbances lasted seven minutes in total.

One witness said it seemed longer and there is no doubt that this was a deeply upsetting experience for all those who saw it.

Even a few minutes can seem a long time when people are attacking each other with all sorts of weapons.

In the circumstances, passengers are entitled to ask about security at the airport and the speed of the police response.

Police are investigating a possible link between Saturday night's incident and a funeral attended by members of the Traveller community earlier that day in Park, Co Derry.

Officers recovered a number of weapons, including two loaded shotguns and several knives before intervening to prevent a mass brawl in the grounds of St Mary's Church in the village.

Given the obvious tensions at the funeral, questions will be asked about any subsequent police monitoring of mourners, in particular the potential for disturbances at the airport.

While we must welcome the fact that the airport has said the behaviour witnessed on Saturday will not be tolerated, it is a matter of concern that although four people were prevented from travelling, others involved in the fight were allowed to proceed.

A full review of Saturday's fracas needs to be carried out and the findings published in order to reassure airport users.

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