Children join third night of Northern Ireland riots

Children as young as nine joined riots in Northern Ireland as shots were fired at police in a third night of violence blamed on dissident republicans in the flashpoint British province.

Last Updated: Jul 14, 2010, 23:51 PM IST

Belfast: Children as young as nine joined
riots in Northern Ireland as shots were fired at police in a
third night of violence blamed on dissident republicans in the
flashpoint British province.

The youngsters were among hundreds of people on the
streets of Ardoyne in north Belfast overnight Tuesday as
fresh violence flared following the peak of the Protestant
marching season, a traditional trigger for sectarian tensions.

First Minister Peter Robinson voiced support the way
officers had handled the clashes after meeting Northern
Ireland police chief Matt Baggott to discuss the situation,
amid questions over tactics.

Robinson, of the Protestant, pro-British Democratic
Unionists, said he had "nothing but the highest admiration for
the way the police have coped with the most difficult of
circumstances".

His deputy, Martin McGuinness of Catholic republicans
Sinn Fein, who want a united Ireland, described the unrest as
"a setback against the huge progress we have made over the
course of recent times".

Authorities are blaming a small group of troublemakers
for the violence, with Baggott describing trouble earlier this
week as "recreational rioting with a sinister edge."

Witnesses have also told of how young children got
involved.

"I was directly confronted by a nine-year-old last
night," Father Gary Donegan, a local priest, told BBC radio
Wednesday, saying he had "physically pulled stones out of
children`s hands."

"At one stage, it looked like the Milan catwalk," Donegan
added. "It was ridiculous. There were girls out with little
parasols... it was a bit like a Eurodisney theme park for
rioting."

Children had never been involved in violence even at the
height of Northern Ireland`s civil unrest known as the
Troubles in the 1970s and 1980s, he said.

Baggott has also spoken of children as young as eight
being involved while one of his assistants, Duncan McCausland,
said youngsters were used as shields by "sinister elements"
organising the violence.

"There will be significant arrests in the forthcoming
days -- individuals will not go scot free," McCausland vowed.

Local Sinn Fein councillor Gerard McCabe described the
culprits as "an anti-social group hell bent on torturing the
community."

There were reports of four to six shots being fired at
police in mainly Catholic Ardoyne which police are
investigating, while rioters also threw petrol bombs, stones
and missiles.

Bureau Report