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Bishops’ ecumenical appeal for calm as riots hit Northern Ireland city of Londonderry

Posted on: July 13, 2018 11:17 AM
Bishops Ken Good Dr Donal McKeown look on as a van burns during rioting in Londonderry this week.
Photo Credit: Church of Ireland

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has said that bombs were thrown at officers as they policed a sixth successive night of violence in the Bogside area of Londonderry last night (Thursday). Despite the Irish peace process, a number of annual events continue to cause tension. This week’s rioting was sparked by a 12 July march in the city, which commemorated the 1688 victory by Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James II. Earlier this week, bishops from the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches made a joint visit to the area to meet people affected by the petrol bombs and to appeal to calm.

The PSNI say that three people were arrested last night – one for attempted murder – after two explosive devices and 74 petrol bombs were thrown by rioters in scenes that have been seen for each of the past six nights.

The Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Ken Good, and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Derry, Dr Donal McKeown, visited the Fountain and the Bogside areas of Londonderry and met youth workers at the Cathedral Youth Club in the Fountain and residents living beside the nearby peace wall. They also talked to senior citizens living in sheltered accommodation on the other side of the peace wall at Alexander House and in St Columb’s Wells, who have witnessed some of the worst of this week’s violence.

They were joined by Canon John Merrick from St Columb’s Anglican Cathedral and Father Michael Canny from the Roman Catholic Parish of Waterside. They talked to community workers who have been trying to divert young people and quell the disturbances.

As the bishops left St Columb’s Wells, a white commercial van was abandoned at the foot of Lecky Road flyover and set on fire. By the time firefighters arrived to deal with the incident the vehicle was well alight. After the visit, the bishops issued a joint statement condemning the violence and urging parents to use their influence to stop it.

“The continuing attacks on the Fountain – indeed, attacks on people in any part of our community – are an affront to our society and deserve our unqualified condemnation,” the two bishops said.

“There is no justification for the stone–throwing and petrol bombing which has terrorised people living in the Fountain, terrified residents of Alexander House, and appalled the vast, vast majority of their fellow citizens. We are thankful that no one has been seriously injured or worse as a result of the recent attacks but recognise that we may not be so fortunate in future.

“We offer our full support to the PSNI and commend the many local community workers who work tirelessly to prevent interface violence and improve community relations. We applaud, too, the courage of our fellow citizens who have condemned the recent violence publicly and expressed solidarity with their neighbours in the Fountain. We encourage political representatives to do their utmost to end the stalemate which has paralysed politics in Northern Ireland.

“Parents and guardians have a particular responsibility to ensure that their sons and daughters are not involved in the kind of violent behaviour we have seen at the Fountain and Lecky Road flyover, in recent days, and we urge them to use their influence accordingly.”