3 September 2009 Edition
Short Strand gangs riot
THE PSNI’s firing of plastic bullets during disturbances in the Short Strand area of Belfast this week is being challenged by local Sinn Féin spokesperson Niall Ó Donnghaile.
A number of people were injured after plastic bullets were fired into crowds of young people, involved in what has been dubbed ‘recreational violence’ on Monday night.
But Ó Donnghaile also condemned trouble that flared between rival gangs of nationalist and loyalist youths at the Albertbridge Road interface.
Shortly after 8pm, a crowd of youths from the loyalist Albertbridge area gathered and shouted abuse across the interface. This drew a rival crowd of youths from the Short Strand. During the stand-off, which lasted a number of hours, bottles and bricks were thrown and the PSNI fired a number of plastic bullet rounds.
During the rioting, the home of Ó Donnghaile’s parents was targeted for attack. The front living room window was smashed with a hammer. Moments earlier, a relative with special needs moved away from his seat at the window, narrowly avoiding injury.
The Sinn Féin representative described the incident as the latest in a series of disturbances which have occurred over the last 18 months.
“Young people from both sides of the community have been organising staged confrontations through internet sites such as Bebo and mobile phones,” Niall Ó Donnghaile said.
“Many of those involved are known anti-social elements who view rioting as a recreational sport and sectarian differences as gang rivalry.
“There can be no justification for this kind of behaviour which brings nothing but disruption and disturbance to the local community.”
He rejected media attempts to blame republicans for the disturbances because Sinn Féin held a rally earlier in the evening to mark the closure of the Mountpottinger Road barracks.
“The rally was a legitimate political event and those attending dispersed peacefully prior to any later trouble,” Ó Donnghaile pointed out.
“In fact, republicans, throughout the summer, have played a key role in preventing interface confrontations of the kind we witnessed.
“Any claim that those engaging in rioting last Monday are Sinn Féin supporters is utterly spurious and cannot be reconciled by the fact that my own family came under attack by the same anti-social elements during the disturbance.”
SHORT STRAND disturbances: Anti-social elements are viewing rioting as a recreational sport