A DUP MP has issued an appeal for attacks on police in Northern Ireland to stop and also condemned Sinn Fein “arrogance” amid scenes of disorder.
Gregory Campbell was speaking after 30 petrol bombs were thrown at officers in Co Antrim in what has been termed an “orchestrated attack”.
Police were attacked in Newtownabbey on the outskirts of Belfast on Saturday, after violent scenes in the Sandy Row area in the city as well as in Londonderry on Friday.
There was further disorder on Sunday night at the Cloughfern roundabout and also on the North Road in Carrickfergus where bins were set alight and left in the middle of the road. Police were in attendance at both locations.
On Saturday p
olice said it was the fifth consecutive night of disorder in Derry on Friday, when 12 officers were injured by a large group throwing masonry, bottles, petrol bombs and fireworks.
Some 27 police officers were injured on Friday night across Belfast and Derry.
Mr Campbell called for calm on Sunday and urged attacks on the police to stop.
“Those attacking the police should stop,” he said.
“Rioting and injuring rank and file officers will only result in young people being criminalised.”
The East Londonderry MP also criticised Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly for comments on Saturday about the disorder.
Mr Kelly claimed the disturbances were “a direct consequence of the actions of political unionism” and accused “DUP rhetoric” of sending a “very dangerous message to young people in loyalist areas”.
Tensions have soared within the loyalist community in recent months over post-Brexit trading arrangements which have been claimed to have created barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Anger ramped up further 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 against 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 the disturbances in Newtownabbey on Saturday.
Mr Campbell accused Mr Kelly and Sinn Fein of “arrogance” and “not recognising the major part they played in creating” anger in the community.
“Sinn Fein helped organise an IRA man’s funeral where 2,000 people attended when other people couldn’t even have some of their own children at the funeral of a loved one,” the DUP man said.
“Gerry Kelly and co need to get real. People aren’t taps that some politician can turn on or off.
“Riots on the streets, just as they must be condemned, it also has to be realised that they are a symptom of the manner in which Sinn Fein has played fast and loose with the Covid rules whilst zealously demanding everyone else obey them.”
Earlier, the PSNI’s North Area Commander Chief Superintendent Davy Beck said 30 petrol bombs were thrown at officers and three cars set alight in Newtownabbey on Saturday.
He said from around 7.30pm to 10.30pm a crowd of 20 to 30 people, including young people and older men, some of whom were wearing masks, gathered in the O’Neill Road/Cloughfern area.
“In total 30 petrol bombs were thrown at police and three vehicles were hijacked and set on fire,” he said.
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 has been charged in connection with rioting, and throwing a petrol bomb in Newtownabbey.
He is due to appear at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Monday April 26.
Meanwhile seven people have been charged after the disturbances in the Sandy Row area.
Four adults – three men aged 25, 21 and 18 years old, and a woman aged 19 – have been charged with riot.
All four are due to appear at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on April 30.
Three teenagers, aged 17, 14 and 13, have also been charged with riot.
They are due to appear at Belfast Youth Court on April 30.
As is normal procedure, all charges will be reviewed by the Public Prosecution Service.