Armed rioters scale ‘Peace Wall’ to clash at Interface
Gemma Burns - North Belfast News - 7 June 2010
Young people wielding machetes, meat cleavers and iron bars have been scaling a 'peace wall' at a North Belfast interface wall in order to get involved in sectarian rioting.
The Alexandra Park interface off the Limestone Road has seen an escalation in sectarian clashes between young people over the last number of weeks with local people declaring the area a "no go" zone at night.
Concerned community workers fear the problem could get worse over the summer holidays and in the lead up to the marching season.
Members of Newington, Parkside and Castleton Residents Group have been in talks with the NIO, PSNI, Belfast City Council and their counterparts in Tigers Bay to try and bring an end to the violence. Young people have been climbing over a peace wall in the park to get to their counter parts on either side. Some have even been witnessed attempting to tunnel under the wall.
Chair of the group Tom O'Kane said the park has become a "no go" area at night as teenage rioters take over the area.
"It is getting to the stage now where it is almost every night they are at it," he said.
"There is a builders yard near the peace wall and they are going in there and lifting timber to throw at each other. They've been armed with meat cleavers, machetes and iron bars to riot with. Many of them are coming in from outside the area to do this and it has to stop."
Heightening the peace wall has already been ruled out by the NIO, so the group are trying to come up with alternatives to ensure a peaceful summer.
"We are talking at the minute about what we can do because residents can't have a summer of this," he said.
"We are trying to make the park a better place for residents to come into and enjoy, but at the minute most people won't come in at night for fear of what might happen."
Tom O'Kane has been joined in his plea for an end to the trouble by Tigers Bay community worker Sam Cochrane.
"We would agree with Tom on the upsurge in the trouble and we want to appeal for calm now the summer is starting and we have the bright nights," he said.
"We are in the process of dealing with it and the two communities working together can help bring a stop to it. We want the park to be there for the people who want to enjoy it like families, not these young people who are involved in this behaviour.
"But there is good work going on between the two communities so hopefully we can se an end to it."
This is hardly the time to “wring your hands” and blindly accept that the content of this article, although very disturbing, signals that the upcoming marching season will be one of rioting and mayhem. But, it does raise the possibility that problems could be on the horizon and perhaps it is time to take preventive measures. This is, after all, the first marching season since the turnover of policing and justice powers to the Stormont government and there might be some who would want to put the new justice minister to the test. It might be a wise time on the part of all concerned to implement a policy of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.