Northern Ireland

Community workers maintain presence at west Belfast interface following trouble in the area

Police described the scenes at Lanark Way on Wednesday night as "totally unacceptable behaviour". Picture by Pacemaker Press
Police described the scenes at Lanark Way on Wednesday night as "totally unacceptable behaviour". Picture by Pacemaker Press Police described the scenes at Lanark Way on Wednesday night as "totally unacceptable behaviour". Picture by Pacemaker Press

COMMUNITY workers last night maintained a presence near a west Belfast interface following a previous night of trouble in the area.

Members of Clonard Residents Association said they would be present on the Springfield Road side of Lanark Way in a bid to "provide reassurance" to residents and to "liaise with police".

The move came after serious unrest in the area on Wednesday night after a protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol took place on the unionist side of the interface.

Around 10 people holding a banner had gathered for the protest, blocking the road.

But up to 100 youths and young adults armed with missiles and fireworks later attacked police following the loyalist demonstration.

Two boys, aged 12 and 15 years, were arrested on suspicion of riotous behaviour. They were later released on bail pending further police enquiries.

PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne condemned the violence.

Speaking at a Policing Board meeting, he said: "No one wants to see that return to our the streets.

"I think we want to see this in terms of a small-scale isolated incident and support the community in trying to dial down the rhetoric of what we saw yesterday, because no one wants to see this escalate and a return to images of the past."

PSNI Chief Inspector Darren Fox had earlier yesterday described the scenes as "disgraceful".

"The totally unacceptable behaviour by those intent on trouble caused significant inconvenience to the local community and only served to heighten community tensions across the area," he said.

Sean Murray, chairman of the Clonard Residents Association, said following the protest, trouble broke out on the Shankill side of Lanark Way. He said young people who had gathered on the Springfield Road side were "pushed down side streets" by community workers.

He said while there was no "interface violence", police came under attack from youths on both sides.

Mr Murray said the trouble moved to the Albert Street area, off the Falls Road, for a time before returning to the Springfield Road.

He said youth workers were also on the ground trying to speak with the young people, though there were "very few local kids" involved.

The community representative said the crowd dispersed at around 10.30pm.

Mr Murray said "leadership" was needed on the unionist side as he believed "there are people who are trying to wind kids up on both sides and get them involved".

"There needs to be leadership on the unionist side, there is a clear lack of leadership," he said.

He said nationalist community representatives "wouldn't even dream" of permitting a protest to take place near the interface.

"It is inflaming the situation," he said.

"The situation is already volatile".

DUP councillor Brian Kingston described the unrest as "very disappointing".

He said that while people have "every right to protest", for "anonymous people to call for protests at interface areas which descend into criminal rioting against the police is only a distraction from the serious work which needs to be done to fundamentally change the protocol".

"Those who call for a protest need to take ownership of it and take responsibility to prevent it descending into violence," he said.

"DUP representatives will make a judgement on a case by case basis when to attend or not to attend and on the motives and intentions of those calling for protests at interface areas".