Page last updated at 17:14 GMT, Sunday, 29 November 2009

'Loyalist mob' blamed for trouble

Scene of the disturbances
Police said appropriate resources were in place to deal with any trouble

Disturbances in Portadown in which police were attacked have been blamed on a "carefully-orchestrated loyalist mob" by a local SDLP assembly member.

A large crowd gathered on Sunday shortly after midnight in the Mandeville Street and West Street area.

Ten officers sustained minor injuries and a number of vehicles were damaged.

Dolores Kelly said the plans were known weeks ago and the gathering should have been stopped. A police spokeswoman said appropriate resources were in place.

The trouble, said by police to be sporadic, lasted for about three hours.

A 19-year-old man is to appear in court next month charged with assault on police and public order offences, while a 31-year-old was released pending further inquiries.

'Provocative'

Mrs Kelly said: "Two weeks ago we warned that texts were circulating calling on all loyalists to gather for a show of force in the centre of the town at pub closing time.

"This was incredibly stupid, incredibly provocative and the purpose was made absolutely clear in the texts which we forwarded to the media - to intimidate nationalists and lay claim to ownership of the town centre.

"As far as I have heard the police were prepared and were able to move the mob back and generally control the situation. But the fundamental point is that a very substantial group of people are determined to deny access to the town centre for all."

She said she had called for an investigation into the police's handling of the incident.

The Irish News reported on 19 November that text messages were circulating urging loyalists to gather on a given weekend night "to show republicans that we will not tolerate their behaviour or presence in our area".

Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition spokesman Breandan Mac Cionnaith said: "By permitting this intimidatory mob to assemble last night in the first place, the PSNI ensured a clear message was sent out signalling that Portadown town centre is not a welcome or safe place at night for Catholics or nationalists.

"That is totally and completely objectionable and abhorrent and cannot be justified under any circumstances."

A police spokeswoman said they were aware of the text messages being circulated and appropriate resources had been put in place to deal with the illegal gathering.

She said police were "working with the public and community representatives to resolve the situation".



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