THE political vacuum created by the stalemate in talks to restore a functioning executive at Stormont has been blamed as a contributory factor in the riots that occurred in Derry during the “Twelfth” week (an Ulster Protestant celebration held on 12 July), two diocesan bishops have said.
In a separate incident, in Belfast, explosive devices were thrown at the residences of the retired Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, and a senior party activist, Bobby Storey. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) suspects that the acts were orchestrated by republican dissidents using the events around 12 July as an opportunity to promote inter-community tensions.
After the Derry attacks, which targeted the small Protestant community around the Fountain area, as well as sheltered housing near by, behind a “peace wall”, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry, the Rt Revd Ken Good, and his RC counterpart, Dr Donal McKeown, visited the affected areas and spoke with community leaders and residents.
Three youths were subsequently arrested, after two explosive devices and 74 petrol bombs were thrown by rioters in scenes that were repeated over six nights.
In a statement after their visit, the Bishops said: “The continuing attacks on the Fountain — indeed, attacks on people in any part of our community — are an affront to our society, and deserve our unqualified condemnation.
“There is no justification for the stone-throwing and petrol-bombing which have terrorised people living in the Fountain, terrified residents, and appalled the vast, vast majority of their fellow citizens. We are thankful that no one has been seriously injured, or worse, as a result of the recent attacks, but recognise that we may not be so fortunate in future.”
Offering support to the PSNI and local community workers, the Bishops said: “We encourage political representatives to do their utmost to end the stalemate which has paralysed politics in Northern Ireland.
“Parents and guardians have a particular responsibility to ensure that their sons and daughters are not involved in the kind of violent behaviour we have seen in recent days, and we urge them to use their influence accordingly.”
The Chief Constable of Northern Ireland, George Hamilton, condemned the violence: “I am confident [it] is being orchestrated by dissident republicans, with the New IRA being the primary grouping responsible.”
On Friday night, two devices described as “large industrial-type fireworks capable of causing serious damage or injury” were thrown into the driveway of Mr Adams’s West Belfast home, where minutes before his grandchildren had been playing. No one was injured either at Mr Adams’s home or in a similar attack at Mr Storey’s residence.
After the attack, Mr Adams called on those responsible to meet him, and explain what such actions could achieve. “Whoever it is — and I am not pointing the finger — let them come, let them sit down across the table, or let their representatives sit down across the table, and explain what this is about,” he said.
The Alliance Party leader, Naomi Long, said: “These latest attacks on the homes of Gerry Adams and Bobby Storey are a deliberate and calculated attempt to cause fear and raise tensions within our community. They must be condemned without equivocation by us all.”