WIDESPREAD rioting in Belfast marred the Twelfth of July marching celebrations. Several police officers were injured by flying débris and three needed treatment after a shotgun was discharged.
The rioting, on the fringes of Nationalist areas, occurred as bandsmen and their followers were returning through areas permitted by the Parades Commission, such as Ardoyne. Cars were hijacked and set alight, and members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) removed a human blockade across a road which tried to prevent the marchers from passing.
Another incident occurred at Lurgan, when a gang of masked men attempted to board the Belfast-Dublin express train Enterprise and set it alight. They were thwarted by the driver, who kept the train moving. Police and Orange Order leaders blamed dissident Republicans for an orchestrated campaign, which, they said, was planned to destabilise the peace that has attended recent marches across the Province.
A new development this year was the involvement of youths from the Republic, who said that they were there “in solidarity” with Northern nationalists, although the authorities, and the journalists who interviewed them, believe most of them were not even born when the Troubles were at their height.
On Saturday, a bomb exploded at Newtownhamilton, in South Armagh. It was believed to be targeted at PSNI officers, but no one was injured. Across the border, in the Republic, five men were arrested by Gardai on suspicion of attempting to carry explosives into Northern Ireland.
This was in marked contrast to the Republic’s peaceful Orange parade at Rossnowlagh, in Co. Donegal, which attracted 12,000 marchers and 30 bands.