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NI Fed rounds on politicians and parents after attack on officers

Northern Ireland’s police leaders and politicians have condemned attacks in Belfast that left 26 officers injured. Fed leaders said officers are sick of being a ‘punchbag’ for the failures of society.

The Police Service for Northern Ireland called for parents and community leaders to curb anti-social behaviour while the Police Federation said its members were tired to dealing with the consequences of failure to tackle entrenched social issues.

It followed a major incident in Belfast at the weekend in which gangs of youths injured 26 PSNI officers who were helping contractors clear a bonfire.

In what police leaders describe as a premeditated attack on Saturday, officers came under sustained attack from large groups of youths throwing petrol bombs, masonry and other missiles.

Three required hospital treatment and several others received medical treatment for a range of injuries including concussion and head, neck and back injuries. All officers have now been discharged from hospital.

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland rounded on those involved – and politicians for failing to get a grip on long-standing issues.

Chairman Mark Lindsay said: “Once again, police officers have been drawn into the middle of a row over what should or shouldn’t take place. They are sick of being a punchbag for a society that has failed to tackle contentious issues.

“The attacks were pre-meditated. Petrol bombs, a vehicle brake disc and chunks of masonry don’t materialise out of thin air. These confrontations were planned. Those behind this reckless and irresponsible action had a very clear aim of making officers bear the brunt of their hate.”

He added: “What happened posed real risks to the lives of officers. Petrol bombing is a clear attempt to murder or maim officers who were there to uphold the law.

“My thoughts are with the injured officers and their colleagues who once again demonstrated great professionalism and courage in confronting mindless rioters who achieve nothing but misery and distress for residents in affected areas.”  

The latest incident had followed similar disorder last month.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said careful work hold community relations together during lockdown and the marching season had been jeopardised.  

"Our communities have made it very clear that they do not support and do not want internment bonfires in their areas. To address community concerns we have been working closely with a range of partners who have a role in community safety over recent weeks, including the Department for Justice, Department for Infrastructure, Department for Communities as well as partners in housing, education and health,” he said.

“Our collective aim is to support local communities and ensure that young people are kept safe and out of harm’s way. A key part of this approach has been to support and protect contractors to remove bonfire material that we have seen gathering up around various sites across Belfast and elsewhere on numerous occasions over the last couple of weeks.”

Officers are now carrying out  evidence gathering from CCTV cameras and the force’s own footage to identify the attackers. The force also warned parents and guardians have an important obligation to keep young people safe by knowing where they are going and who they are with.

ACC McEwan said: "This disgraceful attack on officers that were simply doing their job and serving the community cannot be tolerated. I would ask anyone with information to come forward to us by phoning 101.

"I would like to thank community representatives and our partners for their ongoing support and we will continue to serve our communities and make progress on these issues."

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