More than 50 Police Injured in Belfast Violence

More than fifty Northern Irish police officers were left needing medical attention after clashing with loyalist protestors on Friday night. Members of the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) were pelted with bricks, masonry and other missiles as they patrolled the route of a controversial Republican parade held in central Belfast.

The march, which was approved by the body responsible for sanctioning marches in the six counties, the Parades Commission, had been expected to draw the attention of the loyalist community due to the highly controversial event it is held to commemorate.

It was held to remember two IRA volunteers who were killed 40 years ago when the explosives they were carrying to a site they intended to bomb, exploded accidentally in their car.

After the event, Northern Ireland’s chief constable Matt Baggot condemned the violence and challenged both Unionist and Nationalist politicians to behave as “statesmen” and not allow the rioting to affect the normal flow of politics.

“I know that 99 per cent, if not more, of the population will stand with me in utterly condemning those who scarred the reputation of our beautiful city last night,” Baggot told a packed press conference. “Those people had no intention of peaceful protest – they lack the self-respect, and they lack the dignity”.

Baggot, who confirmed that seven arrests had been made so far, issued a stark warning to the rest of the mob, warning that more arrests are to come and that the “prisons will be bulging” once the police have completed their investigation.

In all, fifty-six police officers were injured. Most injuries are believed to be minor. Two civilians were also injured.

The violence was also condemned by Theresa Villiers, Britain’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. “Last night’s violence and attacks on police officers were shameful. Disorder on the streets is a hugely regrettable step backwards,” she told media.

Parades are always a point of contention in Belfast, with both Republican and Loyalist events attracting troublemakers throughout the summer months, the period when most marches are held.

Last month, 12th of July celebrations – a Unionist holiday – saw Orangemen riot in the streets of Belfast, and again clash with police.

The violence comes one week after Belfast played host to thousands of police and fire personnel from around the world, who gathered in the Northern Irish capital to take place in the World Police and Fire Games.

Since the march on Friday, another Republican parade, this time in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, has passed off peacefully.

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Fermanagh G8 Summit Set to be Among Most Peaceful Ever

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has called on all segments of the North’s population to ensure that this year’s G8 summit is remembered as the “most peaceful summit in G8 history”.

McGuinness, who was speaking on the lawn of 10 Downing Street after a meeting with Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson and British Prime Minister David Cameron, said that he hopes “those people who are visitors to our country over the course of the next couple of days will respect the work to build the peace process that we have been engaged in for many years”.

Only a small scattering of protests have been held so far in the UK, with one high-profile raid last weekend leading to the detention of a handful of protesters in London, some 500km from the Lough Erne resort where this year’s summit is taking place. Smaller protests have been already taken place in Dublin and Belfast, both of which are reported to have ended without any violence or intervention from authorities, and although some protestors are expected to travel to Enniskillen – the town nearest to the resort – to protest in the next few days, the demonstrations are expected to pass off peacefully.

“My belief is its relatively small numbers would be wanting to cause trouble and the vast, vast sense of this is people wanting to protest peacefully,” commented Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Alastair Finlay. “The vast majority of people are from Nothern Ireland or the island of Ireland and they don’t want us being put on the map for the wrong reasons.”

Finlay explained that although a small number of dissidents, mostly republican, are planning to use the summit to highlight their cause, it is likely that the 8,000 plus police and 900 strong Garda contingent which will patrol the Monaghan and Cavan borders, will present a strong enough security presence to deter any attacks.

“The sad reality is the dissidents are there, they will want to draw attention to themselves, but usually in a way that is targeting people (PSNI officers) and will be away from where the essence of the strong security round an iconic figure like the President (Obama) would be,” Finlay said.

Although the primary concern for the PSNI and Garda is rogue dissidents, the forces will also be tasked with policing planned protests, most of which have followed proper procedure and informed the authorities of their intentions beforehand. While the protests are not likely to pose the same security risk as dichotomous republicans, organised protests, like London in 2005, when the G8 was held in Gleneagles, Scotland, and in Rome a few years later, prove that even planned marches can pose problems for the authorities.

Among the groups planning demonstrations in Enniskillen is the Socialist Workers Party, which is billing its march as an ‘anti-summit’. “There’s going to be a lot of different groups there,” commented People Before Profit’s Brian O’Boyle. “So you might have every group from charities to trade unions to radical left organisations to the environmentalists. They’ll all have their own specific focus.”

Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy added that he doesn’t think protesters will flock from all corners of Europe to march, as was the case in London and Rome, predicting that most will travel to Enniskillen from somewhere in Ireland.

Around 1,500 people turned out in Belfast earlier on Monday to take party in a march organised by the Northern branch of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Like the protests in Fermanagh, many of the attendees were far-left liberals, with Amnesty International, pro-Palestinian groups and the anti-fracking community also represented. Observers estimated that around 1,500 protesters attended the march, which passed off peacefully without need for any significant police presence — a feature which had been a staple of any Northern Irish protest until only a few years ago.

While many of the headlines surrounding the G8 will focus on the issues highlighted by protesters, the leaders congregating in Lough Erne will be penning deals and thrashing out policies aimed at resuscitating global economic growth. US president Barack Obama has already held bilateral talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin and David Cameron prior to the summit, and is widely expected to focus his attention of shoring up ties with Pacific powers Japan and China during his time in Co Fermanagh.

Although each of the powers and protestors has its own agenda, the largest benefactor of the talks is set to be the host, Northern Ireland, with as mentioned above, a high-profile investment package already approved by Westminster, and the news that Obama is ready to engage with Stormont on a deeper level, including creating the position of a permanent US envoy to the region – reason enough some commentators believe for protesters in the North to keep their anti-capitalist sentiment to themselves for the next week.