Children as young as 12 involved in new night of violence in Northern Ireland

James Ward and Rebecca Black
·5-min read

Watch: Police attacked in further loyalist disturbances in Northern Ireland

Children as young as 12 were involved as violence flared during another night of disorder in parts of Northern Ireland, police said.

Officers came under attack and were pelted with petrol bombs in a night of violence in predominantly unionist estates in Londonderry on Sunday night.

The PSNI condemned “another night of senseless and reckless criminal behaviour” that began in the Waterside area of Derry at around 9pm.

Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones said: “Again we saw our officers targeted, pelted with petrol bombs and masonry in the Dungiven Road area, where pallets were placed on the road and set alight.

“This saw the main road closed for a time, causing disruption for local drivers.

“Thankfully, last night none of our officers were injured as they worked to bring the disorder to an end.

“I will reiterate our disappointment that we had another night of senseless and reckless criminal behaviour that achieves nothing but cause damage to the community.

“It is also shocking that some of those involved in last night’s disorder were children, some as young as 12 years old, along with others up to 18 years old and a mix of male and females.

Larne incident
Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones (Rebecca Black/PA)

“It is totally unacceptable, and it is crucial we send out a message to those responsible that such behaviour cannot be tolerated.

“People deserve to feel safe within their own homes and be able to walk the streets without fear.”

Petrol bombs and bricks were also thrown at officers in loyalist areas in Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus on Sunday night, with five police officers injured.

The PSNI said approximately 20 to 30 masked individuals set bins on fire near the Cloughfern roundabout in Newtownabbey.

When officers moved in to the area, four petrol bombs were thrown at them, leaving one officer with a leg injury.

Later in Carrickfergus, a crowd of up to 50 people gathered and 20 petrol bombs were pelted at police.

Watch: Violence breaks out on Northern Ireland streets again despite appeals for calm

Four officers were injured after they were struck by objects. They sustained leg, foot and neck injuries.

The PSNI’s North Area Commander, Chief Superintendent Davy Beck, said: “There is absolutely no justification for the shameful scenes we have witnessed on our streets. This orchestrated violence is senseless and reckless.

“The disorder last night left five of our officers injured, officers who were on duty protecting life and property, and our thoughts are with them as they recover.

“A number of our vehicles were also damaged last night and that damage is being assessed today.

“In a time when we are asking everyone to pull together in a health crisis, the people orchestrating this violence and those carrying it out are working against their own community.

“To those who are involved in orchestrating this violence, and to those who are involved in it, stop. It is causing nothing but harm and distress to the local community.

“To those in our community with influence, I would urge you to use that influence so we do not see any further disgraceful scenes of violence on our streets, so we can ensure young people do not get caught up in criminality and that they are kept safe and away from harm.”

It was the second night in a row that trouble broke out at Cloughfern roundabout, although the violence was not as prolonged as on Saturday night.

There was also disorder in the North Road area of nearby Carrickfergus on Sunday night.

On Saturday, 30 petrol bombs were thrown at officers in Newtownabbey in what police described as an “orchestrated attack”.

Northern Ireland unrest
A burning car in Newtownabbey on Saturday night (Peter Morrison/PA)

On Friday, there were violent scenes in the Sandy Row area of Belfast as well.

Police have been subjected to sustained attacks across several nights in the last week in loyalist areas of Waterside, Derry.

Some 27 police officers were injured on Friday night across Belfast and Derry.

Tensions have soared within the loyalist community in recent months over post-Brexit trading arrangements which are claimed to have created barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Anger increased last week following a controversial decision not to prosecute 24 Sinn Fein politicians for attending a large-scale republican funeral during Covid-19 restrictions.

All the main unionist parties have demanded the resignation of PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne, claiming he has lost the confidence of their community.

Meanwhile in Co Antrim, a recent series of drug seizures targeting the South East Antrim UDA – a renegade faction of the main grouping – have caused particular ill-feeling towards police.

The faction is believed to have been behind some of the weekend disturbances.

Earlier on Sunday, Chief Superintendent Beck said 30 petrol bombs were thrown at officers and three cars were set alight in Newtownabbey on Saturday.

Northern Ireland unrest
The Cloughfern roundabout in Newtownabbey on Saturday (Peter Morrison/PA)

Mr Beck said it was an “orchestrated attack on police”.

“We are living in unprecedented times, dealing with a global pandemic – no-one needs the added pressure of disorder in their community,” he said.

“I would appeal to those who are taking to the streets to stop immediately, their actions are causing nothing but harm and distress to the very communities they claim they are representing.”

On Sunday evening the PSNI announced that a 47-year-old man had been charged in connection with rioting and throwing a petrol bomb in Newtownabbey on Saturday.

He is due to appear at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Monday April 26.

Seven people had already been charged after the disturbances in the Sandy Row area, with three men aged 25, 21 and 18 and a 19-year-old woman charged with riot.

All four are due to appear at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on April 30.

Three teenagers, aged 17, 14 and 13, have been charged with riot and are due to appear at Belfast Youth Court on April 30.

Watch: Officers injured during riot in Belfast