Northern Ireland news

Petrol bombs thrown at Apprentice Boys headquarters and police during disorder following Derry parade

Images showing members of a flute band wearing shirts with a Parachute Regiment logo on the sleeves during the annual Apprentice Boys parade in Derry were shared on social media
John Monaghan

THE headquarters of the Apprentice Boys of Derry came under petrol bomb attack during disorder in the city following the annual parade on Saturday.

The main parade, which saw thousands take to the streets to mark the anniversary of the siege of Derry in 1869, had earlier passed off without major incident, although five people were arrested for public order offences.

The absence of trouble in recent years and the dialogue between the Apprentice Boys and nationalist residents had been hailed as a model for cross-community relations across the north.

Hours after the conclusion of the parade, police said that they received a report that two petrol bombs were thrown close to the Memorial Hall on Society Street at around 10.45pm.

PSNI officers who arrived at the scene were then attacked by a crowd who threw "15-20 petrol bombs and other missiles in the area of Fahan Street", while pallets were placed on the street and set alight.

Superintendent Gordon McCalmont said: "The Memorial Hall was busy with people socialising after the parade in the city and, while no one was injured, this could have been much different had it not been for the actions of police.

"Calm was restored shortly after 1am and police remained in the area and monitored the situation throughout the night," he added.

Superintendent McCalmont said an investigation was now underway into the attacks and urged anyone with information about the disorder to contact police.

Earlier in the day, the Clyde Valley Flute Band from Larne claimed in a Facebook post that they had been "completely surrounded by police" because of a small "Paratrooper motif on the arm of their shirts".

A total of 13 people were killed and 15 injured when members of the Parachute Regiment opened fire on a civil rights march in Derry on Bloody Sunday in January 1972.

A former soldier, known as Soldier F, is to appear in court in Derry on September 18 charged with the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murder of four others.

Police said that they are "investigating the behaviour and symbols displayed by one band" and confirmed that five people had been arrested on suspicion of public disorder offences.

Sinn Féin said it would be raising the incident with the Parades Commission and the PSNI.

“The PSNI and the organisers must explain why, after giving an assurance that no provocative symbols would not be tolerated, this band were allowed to march on the parade," said councillor Chris Jackson.

However, a number of unionist representatives issued strong criticism of the PSNI's dealings with the band.

Jimmy Spratt, a former RUC officer, ex-DUP MLA and previous member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, said he was "disgusted" at the PSNI response.

"This is clearly biased policing and double standards, I have always supported policing in a difficult policing environment," he wrote on Facebook.

"Don't let me hear them complain about resources anytime soon, they can deploy 30 officers to surround a loyalist band, but stay clear of republican parades at a distance.

"Time for unionist members of NIPB (Northern Ireland Policing Board) to make their presence felt," added Mr Spratt.

TUV leader Jim Allister said police had "a lot of explaining to do" while DUP East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell described the PSNI operation as "over the top".

Mr Campbell said: "Given that there did not appear to be a suggestion of an offence being committed it is incredulous that an operation like this took place on the week that police were perceived to have tamely walked away from a bonfire site in a republican area of North Belfast where there was obvious law breaking in evidence."

Alliance MLA Stephen Farry said it was time to "cut police officers a little slack".

"Given difficult past week in particular, and the public order challenges of dealing with irresponsible idiots from both sides of the community, maybe it is time to cut police officers a little slack. All questions can be explored rationally over coming weeks via Policing Board," he said.

Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney hit out at Mr Campbell and his party colleagues who he said had caused "considerable hurt and anger" by posing for a photograph in the loyalist Fountain estate under a banner which featured the Parachute Regiment's logo.

"This banner was intended to be provocative with the inclusion of the logo of the parachute regiment. The only connection of that regiment to this city is Bloody Sunday and the DUP representatives who posed for this photo would have been well aware of that."

There was also a counter-protest held by the dissident republican group Saoradh against the staging of the Apprentice Boys parade. Police said a number of individuals would be reported to the Public Prosecution Service over an "unnotified protest".

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