Justice Minister David Ford says the recent attacks on the Fountain in Londonderry spread fear and mistrust among the people living in the predominantly Protestant estate.
Mr Ford said he recognised tensions can be heightened around commemorative dates such as the recent 42nd anniversary of Bloody Sunday but this didn’t mean trouble was inevitable.
SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood raised the matter with the Minister at the Assembly. He asked what action the Department of Justice (DoJ) was taking to tackle recent interface violence in Londonderry.
Mr Ford replied: “The recent attacks in the vicinity of the Fountain Estate, coming so soon after such a successful year for the city, are disappointing and should be condemned by all.
“Not only are such attacks a risk to public safety, they spread fear and mistrust among the people who live in the area.”
Mr Ford said it was ‘disturbing’ to hear that young people were involved in the incidents referring to the arrest of four youths in connection with the disorder.
Investigations, he pointed out, were on-going. He said this would include reviewing CCTV footage from around the area.
“Police deployed additional resources in the area, including video evidence gathering capabilities, and local neighbourhood officers have continued to be visible and are engaging with communities to prevent a reoccurrence,” he explained.
The Minister also said that whilst tensions can be high around certain commemorative dates it doesn’t mean trouble was bound to occur.
“We all recognise that tensions can be heightened around commemorative dates (Bloody Sunday),” stated Mr Ford.
“That doesn’t mean we should accept that trouble is inevitable, but we must also acknowledge that the disorder was not widespread or sustained, and appears to have involved a small number of people, particularly youths,” he added.
Mr Ford also commended groups such the Cathedral Youth Club and other organisations, which have worked hard to defuse tensions in the area and to divert young people from potential disturbances.
“We shouldn’t lose sight of the good work that has been done by many community groups and statutory organisations in Derry in recent years, including the Youth Justice Agency, to build relationships, calm interface tensions, and divert young people away from trouble,” he stated.