Water cannon used as fresh violence flares in Belfast

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Geraint Vincent

A water cannon has been deployed as police are attacked by youths throwing petrol bombs and fresh violence flares on the streets of Northern Ireland.

The latest disorder broke out in the largely nationalist Springfield Road area of west Belfast on Thursday evening, despite calls for calm from cross-party politicians and inter-denominational church leaders.

Petrol bombs are used to attack police. Credit: Presseye

The water cannon was used to hold back crowds of youths, amid a heavy police presence that included lines of armoured PSNI Land Rovers, officers in riot gear, and police dog teams.

Earlier, footage circulating on social media showed youths – many with their hoods up and wearing masks - pelting police vehicles while being cheered on from the sidelines.

Video: UTV Political Editor Tracey Magee on the government response

A number of warnings were given by police, with those present told to “disperse immediately or the water cannon will be used”.

However, the disorder continued and, at one point, a large crowd of those involved were seen pushing a car towards police lines.

Water cannon are not licensed for use in England, Scotland or Wales and the PSNI holds the only six in the UK.

They have not been used in Northern Ireland since serious unrest in the summer of 2015.

Recreational rioting is a term often used in Northern Ireland. Scenes of youths pelting police lines is an all too familiar and depressing phenomenon. But it is important to say that the violence witnessed over recent days, while destructive and mindless, has not appeared out of nowhere. The reasons for this eruption of violence are as complicated as they are numerous...

- UTV Political Editor Tracey Magee in her blog From Brexit to sectarian anger

Justice Minister and Alliance Party Naomi Long said it was “depressing” to see more violence in interface areas.

“More attacks on police, this time from nationalist youths,” she said.

“My heart goes out to those living in the area who are living with this fear and disturbance. This needs to stop now before lives are lost.”

  • Video: Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey appeals for young people to go home

Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey said the scenes were “uncalled for” and “serve no one’s purpose”.

“I’m here tonight again, I was here last night – we’re trying to keep the peace, trying to talk to the young people,” he said.

“I am very grateful at this stage that no one has been seriously hurt or killed and we have to call an end to this.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has also urged young people involved to “go home”.

“This needs to stop now. There is absolutely no justification for destroying your community. Violence has never solved anything,” he said, in a message posted on social media.

Riot police line the Springfield Road in Belfast. Credit: PA

The latest scenes come after several days of rioting in predominantly loyalist areas, some of the worst in the region in recent years.

On Wednesday night, trouble centred around the Lanark Way interface area.

Crowds gathered on either side of the peace wall gates, which were broken open at one point as police tried to restore order and eight officers were injured.

A bus was also hijacked and set alight and a press photographer was attacked by masked men and had his cameras damaged.

On Thursday evening, community activists have been trying to prevent access to the gate of the peace line to try to avoid a repeat of clashes between those on each side.

A total of 55 police officers have already been injured over several consecutive nights of violence.