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Friday, 12 October, 2001, 20:01 GMT 21:01 UK
Focus on fireworks as riot weapons
Police were injured in firework attacks by rioters in west Belfast
Police were injured in firework attacks by rioters in west Belfast
Fireworks which have been used as deadly crude bombs during rioting in north and west Belfast may be banned by the government.

Northern Ireland Security Minister Jane Kennedy announced on Friday that she is starting a review into the problems associated with the misuse of fireworks in the province.

The minister said she was determined to do whatever was necessary to try to radically improve the situation.

An outright ban on the public sale of fireworks in Northern Ireland will be one of the ideas under consideration.

Officers injured

The ban on the sale of fireworks in the province was lifted only recently.

Inspector Will Kerr:
Inspector Will Kerr: "Rioters have been tying nails around the fireworks"
But they have been used as potentially deadly weapons against the police causing a number of injuries during rioting in north Belfast throughout the summer and in recent months.

On Thursday night police units deployed on the Shankill Road in west Belfast came under attack with fireworks, petrol bombs and a blast bomb.

Two officers sustained eye and ear injuries when a firework was fired into their Land Rover.

RUC Inspector Will Kerr said: "Rioters on the street are aiming fireworks horizontally and directly at police lines with the desired effect of seriously injuring police officers, and they are also having this effect as well.

"They are also tying nails around the fireworks. These are very large fireworks and it is very difficult to tell the difference between them and blast bombs."

Houses attacked

Two large fireworks adapted into crude bombs were also used to target Catholic homes at North Queen Street in north Belfast on Thursday night.

A Catholic woman who lives at one of the houses targeted said: "My three children ran out into the street screaming and I ran out after them. The police said it was a pipe bomb inside a firework.

"It did so much damage to the wall, I would have hate to have seen what would have happened if it had hit a person."

However, shop Keeper James Elliot, who has been selling fireworks legally for years, said banning the sales to the public would only drive the trade underground.

He said: "Like a knife, a firework can be misused. But if the law changes, all that will happen is that there will be more covert operations to obtain fireworks illegally."

See also:

12 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Rioting follows Shankill raid
28 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Community leaders 'must end riots'
27 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Police injured in fierce Belfast rioting
28 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Q&A: North Belfast riots
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