Belfast Telegraph

Tensions rise as rioting preceeds parade

By Brendan McDaid
11 August 2004

Tensions were today escalating in Londonderry following one of the worst nights of rioting on the east bank in recent years.

Around 100 nationalist and loyalist youths staged pitched battles over several hours, just days before the Apprentice Boys parade in Derry.

Community leaders today expressed fears the situation would now escalate.

Mobs of teenagers and adults gathered at the Irish Street/ Gobnascale interface area at around 11pm and began firing bottles and bricks at each other.

Police were attacked with petrol bombs after being called to the scene in response to reports that a makeshift barricade was blocking Bann Drive.

Two petrol bombs hit a Land Rover. No-one was injured in the attacks and no arrests were made.

A PSNI spokesman said: "Rival groups had gathered in the area and threw a number of stones, bottles and bricks at each other.

"Bricks and bottles were also thrown at police, as well as two petrol bombs.

"Community representatives helped to try to restore calm to the area."

The clashes lasted several hours, spilling over into the early hours of this morning before the groups dispersed.

The disturbances follow similar clashes on a smaller scale at the west bank Fountain/ Bishop Street interface over the weekend.

DUP councillor and Apprentice Boys spokesman William Hay today blamed nationalists for the overnight violence.

Mr Hay claimed a small group of youths from Top of the Hill had repeatedly attempted to goad a reaction by attacking homes and cars in Irish Street over the last few nights.

He said: "Looking at last night and earlier incidents in the Fountain, it is obvious there are people attempting to build these tensions ahead of Saturday and we have to avoid that.

"We within the Apprentice Boys are planning for a very, very peaceful day for the entire city."

SDLP councillor Gerard Diver said it was unhelpful to apportion blame to one side.

Appealing for both communities to take "a step back", Mr Diver said.

Police appealed to anyone who witnessed the disturbances to contact them on 028 7136 7337 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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