Politicians condemn disorder after Derry parade

Politicians have condemned disorder in Londonderry during which young people were seen preparing and throwing petrol bombs.

It happened as several hundred people attended a dissident republican parade in Creggan on Easter Monday.

A van was set alight and a petrol bomb was thrown at a journalist.

Police have said the march was illegal, with a dozen men marching in paramilitary-style uniforms.

Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said: “What we saw yesterday was an unrepresentative, small minority who remain intent on causing violence and disorder and who will exploit local young people in the process.

“Moving forward, we’ll continue to focus on delivering policing with the community in Creggan."

Petrol bomb thrown at journalist

Belfast Live journalist Niall Deeney escaped injury when a petrol bomb exploded at his feet.

He said he observed "a group of very small children" with petrol bombs before an older boy lifted and lit one.

Mr Deeney said he went to warn a group of journalists that the situation was escalating.

“So, I shouted to them and as I walked back to where I was standing, a young boy with a balaclava on threw a petrol bomb directly and deliberately at my feet," he said.

He described it as an attempt to intimidate journalists.

“I could see that there continued to be petrol bombs thrown at that group of journalists who made a hasty retreat.

“There was a sense that in the absence of a visible police target, journalists became almost like a consolation prize."

In a statement released on Tuesday Saoradh representative Paddy Gallagher said they did not condone attacks on members of the media.

"Saoradh does not condone attacks on the media.

"Once Saoradh representatives became aware of the situation they attempted to steer those involved away from media personnel."

SDLP MLA and Policing Board member Mark H Durkan condemned the violence.

"I express solidarity with the journalists that were attacked, others that had property destroyed and the Creggan community at large, who once again have suffered at the hands of a small number determined to cause disruption and destruction," he said.

Mr Durkan said the most "distressing and depressing" element was the involvement of children and young people.

"Young people and not so young people who feel left behind by the peace process who are being exploited by these groups for their own nefarious purposes," he said.

"These people want to drag us back to the past, we can’t allow this."

Mr Durkan commented that the attacks on journalists have come just five years after the killing of Lyra McKee in the Creggan.

"That would have been very much in people’s minds, it certainly would have been very much on the journalists' minds.

"But it’s clearly not in the minds of these young people and it’s not in the minds of those who are sending them out to do this."

Petrol bombs in trouser pockets in Creggan
Petrol bombs would have been used to attack police officers "had the opportunity arose", Ch Supt Kearney believes [PA]

Sinn Féin MLA Ciara Ferguson said the violence was "outrageous and totally unacceptable".

“Journalists should be able to do their job free from threats and intimidation, and likewise the community should not have to put up with this destruction outside their homes," she said.

“This reckless activity is not representative of this city and is in stark contrast to the hugely positive work that is being done to continue with the positive transformation of the city."

DUP MLA Gary Middleton said young people had been exploited by those who "hide behind the scenes and give orders".

“What we could have seen yesterday as a result of their behaviour is further loss of life or serious injury so it’s deeply concerning, particularly given the young ages of those involved.”

Speaking about the exploitation of children in the violence, Justice Minister Naomi Long said: "This is grooming and exploitation.

"It has no place in any community at any time."

UUP leader Doug Beattie described the violence as "appalling and depressing" but not surprising.

"There’ll be lots of talk about what the police should have done, could have done," he said.

"I will not even attempt to tell the police how to do policing. But I do have to say we can’t allow this to continue and allow a young generation to be corrupted in such a way.”

'We thought we were passed this'

Séamus Dooley from the National Union of Journalists said he had spoken to and received messages from members of the press who were at the parade.

"This is a public event, it is vital for photographers and reporters to record such events and do their work," he said.

"Just as it is important that frontline workers and the PSNI are allowed to do theirs."

Mr Dooley said the views of those involved in the violence are not representative of Creggan.

"The notion of petrol bombs being carried by young people and a bomb landing beside a journalist is frankly terrifying," he added.

"We thought we were passed that."

Police kept low profile

Local priest Fr Michael Canny praised the PSNI's strategy of keeping a low profile.

“Down through the years, the police adopted a tactic and they adopted a different tactic this year and I think the people in charge must be commended for doing that and having the courage to do that.

“Because I’m sure they’re caught between a rock and a hard thing. The people who organise the parade want them to come in and I’m sure their superiors and maybe others want them to take some other kind of action.

“But they did something which I think was very praiseworthy and commendable yesterday.”

Police said youths seen preparing petrol bombs also took part in the parade along Central Drive.

At about 19:30 BST, missiles were thrown at a fire appliance sent to the area to deal with rubbish that had been set on fire across a road at Creggan Heights.

The appliance was not damaged, but turned back, left the area and police went to the scene, according to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.

Drone message

The parade, marking the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, began at 14:00 BST on Monday at Creggan shops before making its way to the City Cemetery.

The event was organised by the Derry 1916 Committee, which is supported by the Saoradh organisation, considered by the police to be linked to the New IRA.

The PSNI said it was also aware of reports on social media that petrol bombs had been thrown at members of the press.

A police helicopter observed the event and a drone flying overhead relayed a message reminding participants that the gathering was "unnotified".

The PSNI said officers would review footage from their "evidence gathering operation" as part of an investigation into a breach of the Public Processions Act and offences under the Terrorism Act.

In 2023 petrol bombs were thrown at the police during a similar march through Creggan.

Violence also broke out after an Easter parade in the area in 2022.