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Retreating PSNI: No point saving face to sacrifice public safety as a result


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Force explains its withdrawal from missile attack at bonfire site amid fears to 'innocent bystanders'.

Under attack: PSNI officers feel the force of rampaging youths

Under attack: PSNI officers feel the force of rampaging youths

Date - 9th August 2019
By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle
13 Comments13 Comments}


Police admitted they retreated from a confrontation in Northern Ireland over concerns innocent bystanders “being used as human shields” could be hurt.

The risks of continuing the operation to remove a bonfire were “outweighed” by the potential harm posed to the wider community and to women and children, a police commander confirmed,

Violence which left three police officers injured in Belfast's New Lodge estate was probably orchestrated by dissident republicans, Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd added.

He regretted the failure of an operation involving more than 150 officers to allow contractors to remove the wooden pallet pyre in the nationalist estate.

Young people climbed on top of the pile in triumph and the police operation ended with vehicles speeding from the estate under a hail of missiles.

The PSNI said six petrol bombs had been recovered and a 13-year-old youth has been arrested on suspicion of riotous and disorderly behaviour.

ACC Todd said: "It is a question for me as a police commander.

"Am I going to continue ramping up the use of police force against a wider community with innocent members present?

"Including water cannon, including the potential for AEPs, commonly known as plastic bullets in parlance in the area.

"Am I prepared to do that merely to save face on behalf of the organisation and sacrifice public safety as a result?

"The answer is, no I am not."

The withdrawal followed a stand-off with republican youths over the bonfire marking the introduction of internment without trial during the Troubles in 1971. Missiles and metal fencing were hurled at officers.


  • The bonfire lit at New Lodge

Police moved in early on Thursday to facilitate contractors tasked with removing the structure.

The officers were injured during sporadic bouts of violence.

The estate was later barricaded using metal fencing following the police retreat.

The bonfire was built on land owned by Northern Ireland's Department for Infrastructure.

It is due to be lit on Thursday night to mark the anniversary of the introduction of the controversial policy of internment without trial of suspected republicans in 1971.

The Housing Executive urged residents to leave the nearby Oisin and Fianna tower blocks as they cannot guarantee their safety, due to the proximity of the blaze.#

Referencing the murder of journalist Lyra McKee by dissident republicans in Londonderry earlier this year during disturbances, ACC Todd said police did "not need to learn the lesson" of the risk to innocent bystanders.

ACC Todd said a significant number of women and children in the crowd were being used as human shields.

The senior commander said he had an obligation to minimise the use of force and the risk to public safety.

"I regrettably have had to take a decision today that the risks of continuing the operation to remove a bonfire were outweighed by the risks that operation would then pose to the wider community, to women and children and others there present.

"That is a matter of regret to me that we were not successful in the objective of the operation but it is nonetheless a responsible, professional policing decision taken within the law and taken with very little room for other decisions to be made."

Chief Constable Simon Byrne commented: “There is no justification for such a cowardly attack and it shows again the dangers our frontline officers face everyday.”

PFNI chairman Mark Lindsay said officers trying to protect the community and lawful agencies are once again caught in the middle and in the firing line.

"This behaviour is contrary to the overwhelming wishes of the people of New Lodge who do not want this bonfire or their area hijacked by young thugs."

Operation Demetrius in 1971 saw hundreds arrested across the region on suspicion of being involved with paramilitary groups.

The vast majority arrested were nationalists, although a significant number of them had no connection with the IRA.

The anniversary has traditionally been marked by many from the nationalist and republican tradition with bonfires, although recent years have seen a move away from pyres towards community-based diversionary activities.

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vertical - 49 minutes ago

No protection for the law abiding majority living in those flats who would have preferred positive police action. The streets must never be given up to law breakers

Maurice Campbell - 4 hours ago

ACC Todd regrets having to take the decision to retreat. I am reassured that we have officers of his caliber able to take the correct decision having weighed the proportionality and risks of continuing to place his officers and the public in further danger. He made the right call, and will have evidence available to take proper action soon. 

eightfive - 1 hour ago

I wonder how many he will interview for exposing their children to risk?

Maurice Campbell - 4 hours ago


Johnny7 - 5 hours ago

Is this a policy from the new Chief, who sounds like he has taken a leaf out of a certain Craig Mackay's book of police leadership?

Appeasement never works, ask Neville Chamberlain and the millions who died as a result.

Richard Thomas - 5 hours ago

When you retreat you allow the criminals to win 

eightfive - 5 hours ago

1. Internment was not aimed at Republicans or paramilitaries but at terrorists. Let’s get our nomenclature right editor.
2. I trust CCTV will bear out ACC Todd’s claim that innocent people were being used as shields. I would have thought such people would leave the streets so that the police could tackle rioters.
3. I note no mention of reassurance to the neighbouring community of Tigers Bay. In times past the police force ensured rioters could not invade their area, I suggest they will have less confidence in the OSNI which eschews the term force!

eightfive - 1 hour ago

Don’t know but I do recall effectively protecting all the community whilst at Delta Delta.

jerry - 3 hours ago

How are you guys at DUP head office?

robkex2322 - 5 hours ago

Don't worry, they go after historical cases against former servicemen but can't even control their own streets. Pathetic.

Paul - 6 hours ago

It is a shame because the general population just want to get on with their lives and have no interest in the violence offered by a small percentage of the population which is undoubtedly orchestrated to protect criminal activities rather than a political cause. To be fair it already the case in England that the police have surrendered the streets to lawlessness and criminality failing to report and investigate crime, even when there is evidence.

jerry - 6 hours ago

So another “victory” for the “hard” men who stay in the shadows while the politicos who have fanned the flames remain well away and in a nice comfortable home/office courtesy of the taxpayer victims of these morons. 

Are you listening Brexiteer politicians....?

The Good Badger - 7 hours ago

Police surrender to lawlessnes. I hope this will not become the norm. But I rather suspect it will......

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