Londonderry sectarian attacks could reverse decades of progress: DUP

A nationalist gang crossed the Peace Bridge last week and battered a 36-year-old man in a sectarian attack
A nationalist gang crossed the Peace Bridge last week and battered a 36-year-old man in a sectarian attack

DUP politicians have held what has been dubbed a “constructive” meeting with police in Londonderry, following a spate of sectarian attacks in the city.

A series of incidents in the mainly Protestant Waterside area of the city has led to an escalation in tensions, with one DUP councillor even claiming that some unionists now fear a “return to the bad old days” when they felt unable to move around the city freely.

Last week, a 36-year-old man was battered and left with broken teeth by a sectarian gang who had crossed the peace bridge from the largely nationalist Cityside area.

The brutal attack in St Columb’s Park is the latest in an increased number of attacks on the unionist community in the area.

Describing Monday’s meeting with police as “constructive”, Foyle DUP MLA Gary Middleton said the PSNI agreed there needed to be additional resources to deal with ongoing issues in the city.

He added: “They also hope to engage with other statutory agencies to ensure public safety.

“I would urge everyone to report any issues to the police. I will be doing my utmost and will continue to work alongside the residents and the police on this matter.”

East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell said the escalation in tensions could deal a serious blow to community relations in the city unless the situation is dealt with urgently.

He added: “Both the police and the local community has a responsibility to deal with these problems as they have much wider ramifications.

“A police officer who lived on the west bank (Cityside) was the target of a dissident republican bomb attack just over a year ago. This was the first time in decades that a police officer had lived on the west bank and he was the subject of an attempted murder.

“Then retired members of the security services wanted to hold a parade to demonstrate the injustices that were taking place regarding prosecutions being carried out against some of their number in connection with their duties over 40 years ago.

“This parade was called off in Londonderry due to the scale of threats and potential intimidation against those taking part.

“These incidents were serious enough in each of their individual circumstances, but taken together they send out the worst possible signal from Londonderry.

“To unionists, that we are still not welcome in our own city, to former security services personnel, that their grievances don’t count here either, and to anyone who doesn’t share a dissident republican mindset that they are persona non grata also.”

Mr Campbell warned that these issues have the potential to reverse decades of improving relationships if they are not resolved quickly.

He added: “Sinn Fein and SDLP representatives need to be unambiguous along with the wider community in moving forward rather than by their silence allowing very serious consequences to develop.”

DUP councillor David Ramsey last week said some unionists in Londonderry now fear a return to the “bad old days”.

He added: “What Waterside people feel is happening, is what used to happen years ago when the PUL [Protestant-unionist-loyalist] community felt they couldn’t go into the city with their school uniform on.”