Loyalists stoking interface trouble

By Evan Short

BY Evan Short                        e.short@belfastmediagroup.com

A DISSIDENT loyalist faction has been accused of stoking interface tensions after it claimed a fight between two youths was part of a sectarian rampage.

Politicians, community workers and police have all dismissed the claims that a group of ‘up to 50 armed republican youths’ stormed through Tigers Bay last week stating that the incident which actually occurred was an arranged fight between two youths.

The claims which were made on social media by breakaway members of the UDA was followed the next evening by a protest outside nationalist homes, a development which described as ‘worrying’.

The North Belfast News understands the faction behind the claims and the subsequent protest has been trying to establish itself in Tigers Bay and has been challenging mainstream loyalist figures in recent months. Many of those involved have also been prominent in the flag protests.

Following the fight on Edlingham Street on Wednesday night flag protesters from across Belfast descended on the area on Thursday night (May 1) to hold a ‘white line protest’.

“They came out of Edlingham Street and stood on the white lines but this is a first for Duncairn Gardens,” said one resident.

“They were standing across from Catholic homes shouting abuse and making threats.

“It was very deliberate where they held the protest. If the fight took place on Edlingham Street, why did they come onto the Gardens?”

Kate Clarke from New Lodge Safer Streets confirmed the incident on Wednesday night was an arranged fight.

“These are not a new thing and they tend to flare up when the kids go back to school after time off.

“Most of it goes under the radar and we work to stop it, but some people seem to have an agenda and are using this incident to fit that agenda.”

PSNI Inspector Roy Watton confirmed Wednesday night’s incident was an arranged fight.

“We have reason to believe that the youths which gathered in the Duncairn and Nelson Street areas were there to watch a fight between two boys which had been pre-arranged on social media sites.”

A loyalist source who did not want to be named also dismissed the claims.

“People were saying 50 republicans were running through the Bay with claw hammers but it was two kids having a fight with about 15 people watching.

“A car was burned out in the Bay on Sunday (May 4) and people were saying that was sectarian but it wasn’t and the police have confirmed it wasn’t.

“People are working to an agenda here.”

Interface worker Gerry O’Reilly appealed to parents to ensure their children weren’t involved in the unrest.

“Kids may think this is a bit of fun but when other people come to watch there is the potential for worse.

“I would appeal to parents to ensure their kids are not involved,” he said.

A PSNI spokesman confirmed they were still investigating the Edlingham Street fight. He also confirmed they attended a protest the following night on Duncairn Gardens, but no arrests were made.

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