Bus Torched As Co Antrim Goes On Rampage

Vehicles have been high-jacked and a bus and a car burnt out during disorder in Co Antrim's Newtownabbey last night.

In a repeat of incidents earlier this month in Carrickfergus where police drug raids were linked to organised disorder in both the seaside town and in nearby Ballyclare and Eden, about 100 youths stopped traffic on the O'Neill Road near the Doagh Road roundabout on the periphery of the Rathcoole estate, and then threw stones and petrol bombs at approaching police vehicles.

Helicopter cover was provided by the PSNI as officers were drafted in from across NI to police the rioting and this morning contractors are removing the smoking remains of the bus.

It is understood there were a number of police raids in the Newtownabbey area earlier - one of which was in Ballyduff - with Ken Wilkinson, a representative of the UVF-linked Progressive Unionist Party, again telling the BBC this morning that he understood the trouble was linked to these searches over the past two days by officers from the Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

On this morning's Stephen Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster, he has again repeated allegations of heavy-handedness during the searches, which have been rebuffed by the area Superintendent Henry Irvine.

While the PUP man complained that the PSNI wouldn't allow a sick woman's sister to get in to see her relative during one of the searches, Superintendent Irvine revealed that as a consequence of the HET operation, illegal drugs were recovered during some of the three operations.

Mr Wilkinson said that "the way a lot of these searches were carried out leaves a lot to be desired", adding that one of the houses raided belonged to a lady in bad health.

He blamed the trouble on such activity by the PSNI, and while the police said they worked with community representatives to help restore calm to the area last night, the senior police officer rejected the claims of inappropriate police conduct.

He also said that it was no way for such matters to be worked out, as the community itself was the main victim in such trouble.

Speaking to www.4ni.co.uk this morning, local DUP Alderman and former Newtownabbey Mayor, Nigel Hamilton said that the local people were the ones to have suffered.

He also said that as the bus service would have obviously been affected by the previous night's violence - again this hitting the very community from which the rioters came.

Alderman Hamilton also drew parallels with the trouble in Ballyclare some weeks ago when police raids apparently sparked similar street violence in response.

It has now emerged that the bus driver was dragged from his now torched vehicle and attacked during the rioting on Monday night and that petrol bombs were also thrown and several cars were hijacked during the trouble, which lasted for almost four hours.

A Unite union representative Michael Dornan has told UTV that his men threatened to end the bus services in Newtownabbey because of the disturbances.

"These people boarded the bus and poured petrol inside. They then trailed him off the bus and beat him," he told UTV.

Petrol bombs were thrown at police and a number of PSNI landrovers were damaged.

The PSNI said they are now working to identify those involved in the riots and that the violence was eventually over by around 1am on Tuesday morning.

Newtownabbey Alliance Councillor Billy Webb has condemned the trouble which he said started around 9pm last night, with a car and bus being burned out and stones being thrown at police vehicles.

Cllr Billy Webb said: "This was a despicable night of disorder. There can never be any justification for trouble of this nature and no-one should try to provide excuses for those who indulge in thuggery.

"We need calm in the area to allow people to get on with their lives free from disruption and fear. It's despicable that a small number of people can bring themselves to wreak havoc in their local community.

"Those behind this trouble must be caught and I appeal to anyone with information on last night's events to contact police immediately."

See: Co Antrim Attacks 'Reaction To Police Presence'


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