Youths seen making petrol bombs ahead of Derry parade - PSNI

Police have said they saw evidence of youths preparing petrol bombs before an illegal dissident republican parade in Londonderry.

A van was set on fire and motorists were advised to avoid the area after the parade in the Creggan area on Monday.

Several hundred people marched through Creggan, led by about a dozen masked men in paramilitary-style uniforms.

In a statement Derry City and Strabane Area Commander Chief Superintendent Gillian Kearney said she believed petrol bombs would have been used to attack police "had the opportunity arose".

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

Ch Supt Kearney added: "It’s incredibly sad, and really disheartening to see young people, including children, involved in this.

"Using young people in this way, risking their safety and encouraging them to engage in criminality is reprehensible.

“A local person’s van was set on fire for no reason, just next to a local community hall on Central Drive in Creggan, while a number of petrol bombs were also thrown in the area."

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 (NIFRS).

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".

Supt Kearney said officers had received an 11/1 notification form on Saturday March 30 in relation to an event in the City Cemetery on 1 April.

"This did not include notification of a parade from Central Drive to the City Cemetery in Creggan," she added.

"Police engaged with the event organiser and, on the day, issued several warnings from a drone to make participants aware they would be taking part in an unnotified parade on Central Drive.

“Despite several warnings, participants proceeded along Central Drive and into the City Cemetery."

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]

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.

SDLP Leader and Foyle MP Colum Eastwood said those responsible for throwing petrol bombs had "nothing to offer".

He said: “This is the last thing that our community wants or needs.

“Those responsible for this only want to drag us back. They have nothing to offer the people of this city and they need to understand that we all want a better future. The people of Derry want to live in peace with their neighbours.

"We won’t have that peace threatened by anyone, let alone cowards that send kids out to throw petrol bombs.”

Sinn Féin MLA and policing board member Linda Dillon said Easter commemorations "should be conducted with dignity and respect".

Violent scenes in Derry were "disgraceful, unacceptable and have no place in our society," she added.

Séamus Dooley from the National Union of Journalists said there was "no place" for such behaviour.

"Journalists and photographers must be free to cover public events without intimidation or risk to life," he said.