The Londonderry republicans who caused “ultimate offence” by burning poppy wreaths and the names of murdered police and prison officers will not destroy the improving community relations in the city, a DUP MLA has said.
Gary Middleton described the ongoing anti-social behaviour in the Bogside area as “some sort of battle” between a number of groupings, which often spills over into attacks on the mainly Protestant Fountain estate or the PSNI.
The latest incident took place on Wednesday when posters containing the names of murdered police constables Ronan Kerr and Stephen Carroll, slain prison officers David Black and Adrian Ismay, and a number of flags were burned on a Bogside bonfire.
Last month, youths from the same area attacked the Fountain residents on successive nights before attacking police officers over a number of subsequent nights. Several vehicles were also hijacked and set on fire.
The worst violence erupted on the night of July 10 when around six shots were fired at officers close to the city’s walls. Police said 16 petrol bombs were thrown the same evening.
Mr Middleton said: “There appears to some sort of battle within the Bogside involving a number of groupings and that has been evident over the past number of years.
“It’s clear there is a group that won’t listen to anybody, that is disengaged and have taken it upon themselves, particularly last night (Wednesday), to cause ultimate offence with the burning of the police and the prison officers’ names, and of course the [poppy] wreaths as well.
“It seems that they want to be a law unto themselves and won’t listen to anybody.”
The Foyle MLA said the majority of people are disgusted by the behaviour of the bonfire builders, and added: “The majority of people condemned it and, going forward, people will just want to continue to build on the work that has been done. A lot of work has been done by community representatives in the areas. I don’t believe this latest incident will have a major impact over the next number of years.”
A sign welcoming visitors to the Fountain was also stolen and placed on the republican bonfire.
Fountain resident Grace Curry – who gave first aid at the scene of the 1988 Ballygawley bus bombing that claimed the lives of eight soldiers – said she was upset that poppies had been destroyed.
“It has sort of hurt me today when I heard about them burning the poppies on the bonfire,” she told the News Letter.