Page last updated at 15:42 GMT, Tuesday, 1 September 2009 16:42 UK

Sectarian riot a 'disgrace to NI'


Riot after police closure rally

Sectarian rioting which broke out between rival factions in east Belfast was a disgrace to Northern Ireland, police have said.

Officers fired plastic baton rounds to break up trouble between groups of nationalist and loyalist youths on the Albertbridge and Castlereagh roads.

Police said up to 200 people were involved in the Monday night's trouble.

"Once again our country is caught in the spotlight of disorder and communal hatred," a PSNI statement said.

"Let's be clear where the blame lies here, it lies with the criminal who picked up a stone, or a bottle, or any other missile and who attacked the police and other citizens going about their business.

"As often happens, the police were caught between two opposing groups determined to attack each other."

The disturbance began after a rally was held by Sinn Fein to mark the closure of Mountpottinger Police Station.

DUP councillor Robin Newton said he wanted to know who was behind the organisation of the event.

"I would like to know if this was an event with the blessing of Sinn Fein, or whether this was something organised by one or two individuals," said Mr Newton

"Because if it was a Sinn Fein organised event, then I think it was something that was reckless on their part. It obviously developed into a riot that they were unable to control."

East Belfast Sinn Fein representative Niall O Donnghaile said the use of plastic bullets was "completely unjustified" and that the event and the trouble afterwards were not connected.

"Interface trouble has been ongoing in this area over the past number of weeks and has been flagged up by community workers and statutory bodies from both sides of the community," he said.

"The PSNI would have been made well aware of this these problems and, in my opinion, have failed to deal with the situation adequately."

Police said they had launched an investigation into the incident and appealed for anyone with information to contact them.

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