Matt Baggott: “we will deal firmly with outbreaks of violence…”

The BBC report on the continuing violence in Belfast now has quotes from the PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott  [Is he back from his holidays? – Ed]

“I want to commend the tireless courage of my officers at this very difficult time,” Chief Constable Matt Baggott said.

“You may be assured there will be sufficient resources in the event of more disorder for however long is necessary.

“The police service will continue to do everything possible to maintain law and order and we will deal firmly with outbreaks of violence.”

[So, more of the same then? – Ed]  That’s the “community-style policing” that the NI Policing Board unanimously appointed him for.

[Whatever happened to Matt Baggott’s generous offer to speak at the SF ard fheis? – Ed]

The absence of an invite probably has something to do with “the continued and unacceptable use of lethal plastic bullets”. 

Which the police deployed again during Saturday’s violence

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  • David Crookes

    “…..we will deal firmly with outbreaks of violence…..”

    I get it. A completely new policy. Now we can all be sure of unblocked roads and undisrupted traffic.

  • derrydave

    Was good to see the last batch of rioters arrested being refused bail at the weekend. I have to say that I find the PSNI’s response on balance to be the correct one – a bit softly, softly, but the numbers being arrested are adding up and should be enough to discourage others. May be time to get a little tougher in clearing the roads – I think there is now widespread support for tougher action as people get more and more pissed off at this and the numbers protesting get fewer and fewer.
    Well done to the PSNI – jeez, never thought I’d be saying that a few years ago – times really are changing !

  • LOL

    It’s the way he tells ’em.

  • derrydave

    This is NI Joe – a hardline approach to this shit would only end badly.

  • derrydave,

    Are you telling me that if the few hundreds involved in rioting, not peaceful protests sanctioned under law by the Parades Commission, were to be arrested, perhaps through photo identification such as used successfully previously, and hauled off to have a visit with a Magistrate, then all hell would break loose by the lawabiding citizenry?

  • derrydave

    No Joe, I think that is exactly what is happening right now. The fact is however that the rioting which is happening is very very limited in NI terms.

  • babyface finlayson

    I think you have it about right.
    Keep the arrests coming. No bail.
    Pour encourager les autres.
    Those we might call recreational rioters have no interest in standing on the road for a couple of hours then quietly going home.
    So too heavy handed a response by the PSNI risks bringing more aggression onto the street.
    A tricky balancing act.

  • Derrydave,

    Thanks for letting me know that. I wasn’t suggesting that the police go in with batons flailing. But a few hundred individuals who seem to think that only they know or have the right to dictate conditions to the vast majority have to be faced down, My initial scepticism was due to the fact that the police were suffering significant injuries but may have been “instructed” by Baggot or whoever to go “softly softly”.

  • BarneyT

    At the time of the PSNI formation, they had twice their current headcount plus a substantial army presence to provide support.

    It seems that the PSNI is not sufficiently equipped to deal with this. They failed to deal with these protests properly at the start though the basic rule of law, confusing the blocking of the highways by masked individuals as peaceful protest. The issue has now festered and the protesters are more empowered.

    I fear it is only matter of time before the loyalist paramilitaries assert themselves to the detriment of the police. What then? The Army?

    I hope not. I fear it would only be a matter of time before the dissidents drew their attention.

  • tacapall

    Is it not true that Matt Baggott the Chief Constable of the PSNI met leading loyalists from the UVF aligned PUP in the last 24 hours to discuss the ongoing violence, the same people who his fellow PSNI colleague Supt Alan McCrum has publicly stated “there are individuals who are aligned with the UVF involved.”

  • mr x

    @Barney T

    I wonder how Strathclyde Police would have dealt? Scottish police forces still carry physical threat.

  • redstar2011

    The response of the PSNI has been laughable

    Why when protesters block a road at Ardoyne is the road cleared immediately with
    violence and arrests- yet they stand by allowing these thugs to block roads without such action?

    I particularly address my question to SF supporters- is this the new fair/ equal police force you expect Republicans to support?

  • pam

    During the London riots there were folk prosecuted for using social media to plan the riots. The riots here seem to be at least in part organised through some facebook sites etc, so when might we see the first prosecutions for this here ? That along with the quick court sessions and some custodials might at least help.

  • sonofstrongbow

    The PSNI is better equipped than the RUC ever were. It is obviously true that policing numbers have been reduced and not only that but the numbers of ‘tactical’ units have also been cut.

    Much of this reduction in hard-end policing resources has come about from pressure by the Policing Board, notably nationalist members, to refocus the police on ‘community policing’.

    A conspiracy theorist may postulate that curtailing police roughty-toughtyness fits with a nationalist agenda of having pretty police to decorate the streets but who are pretty ineffective when it comes to grabbing street disorder by the balls.

    Although I am as far from a Shinner as it is possible to get I will respond to the question posed on the policing approach at Ardoyne. Any, and I do mean any, use of force by the police from pushing back peaceful protestors to firing shots at someone posing a deadly threat is governed by the criteria of absolute necessity. This is decided on the threat posed versus the likely or possible outcomes that may ensue from the application of force.

    At Ardoyne a road blockade by X protestors with Y opposing protestors approaching and wishing to pass by will lead to a police commander concluding, rightly, that all hell will break lose if he or she does not do something (ie the police will either be called upon to use force against X or Y, in NI possible both).

    Having considered the likelihood of negotiating a way out is nil and being aware that the X group is breaking the law and the Y group, prior to arrival is not, moving X is the option to go for.

    In the recent flag protest blocks it is highly improbable that motorists, however much annoyed by being held up, are going to group together and attack the road blockers.

    When (if) the protests turn violent the police can address the situation. I believe around 70 people have so far been arrested in this regard.

  • derrydave

    Redstar – comparing Ardoyne with these recent road-blocking activities is simply not a valid comparison as anybody with even a basic knowledge of both situations would know. It should also be noted that the PSNI have regularly been berated by many over their apparant lack of action in tackling the rioters at Ardoyne. The bottom line is the PSNI are taking a sensible approach which maximises the number of arrests (lots of CCTV use) whilst also minimises the risk of escalation and significant civil unrest.

  • redstar2011

    Absolute nonsense

    It’s clear as day they take a totally different approach.

    There’s no way in hell Republicans would be allowed to block traffic, let lone orange parades, without immediate action

    It is a sore point for many Shinners but on the ground even some of their representatives admit there is no change in the vastly different approach the Psni use.

    I will watch with interest how they deal with Republicans this summer during protests and guarantee roads will be cleared immediately

  • BarneyT

    Mr X – For strathclyde police, see Garda Siochana and the last England v Ireland game at landsdown.

    I do however see the sense in limiting risk and covertly removing these folks through evidence gathering and appropriate prosecution. They perhaps are looking for a confrontation and givning them what they want which increase the sense of victimhood.

    Lets hope this works.

    However, if indeed Baggot is able to identify UVF personal involvement (as opposed to the organisation) then he should use the evidence he has to apprehend and prosecute.

    If he cannot lift these folks for orchestrating the protests, surely UVF membership is sufficient reason to initiate an arrest.

  • BarneyT

    Also, I’m a bit surprised this topic has not produced a thread

    “Loyalists to take flag protest to Dublin”

    …unless I’ve missed it 🙂

  • galloglaigh

    Catch yourselves on 🙂

    I guess the latter part of my post (the third of three removed) hit’s a raw nerve?

  • tacapall

    “The bottom line is the PSNI are taking a sensible approach which maximises the number of arrests (lots of CCTV use) whilst also minimises the risk of escalation and significant civil unrest.”

    Really ! One day it took the PSNI to charge these nationalist youths with incitement to hatred for burning a bit of paper but we’re all still waiting for arrests and similar charges of those loyalists using facebook to organise illegal protests, calls to shoot a few taigs, burn down BCH, Baggott has openly admitted leading members of the UVF are organising the violence yet he still finds it appropriate to meet with the PUP.

    Three teenage boys from Coleraine – two aged 17 and the other 16 – have been charged with incitement to hatred over the alleged burning of a poppy.

    A social networking site published a photograph which appeared to show two of them carrying out the act. The incident, which happened in Coleraine was reported to the police on Tuesday.

    The 16-year-old was also charged with improper use of a social networking site. All three were in court on Wednesday and were released on bail to appear again on 22 November.

  • BarneyT

    ……and that’s the problem with censorship…it creates a hunger….I’m now curious

  • redstar2011

    Well put tacapall

    Some are too blind to see there’s been little change in the difference in approach used by the Psni- for others like some SF supporters to admit so would unravel an awful lot of the con their party continues to try and put over Republicans

  • BarneyT

    Reverend Mervyn Gibson said

    “Young lads get together, text and arrange where to meet and gather their stones and their petrol bombs but I certainly haven’t seen organised paramilitary involvement……I’ve seen people organising the riots but they wouldn’t be from a traditional paramilitary background.”

    He seems well clued in!

    He goes on “In the past, when paramilitaries were orchestrating activities, it was possible to have it stopped….. it is more difficult because there is no clear line of responsibility for the trouble”

    Surely he is in direct conflict with the chief of police here, and perhaps the PSNI should be turning their attention to the Reverand to have him explain himself or use him as a reliable source of intelligence?

  • galloglaigh


    And of course given that the good Reverent, who has seen people organising riots, he has taken his information to the PSNI.

    Unionism, the gift that keeps on giving!

    I read an interesting statement from Alex Maskey today. He’s 100% correct. Mike is no leader. But then again, he’s the right candidate for the UUP, as they have never led as a party. They let terrorists lead them by the collar.

  • sonofstrongbow

    There is a tendency, dare I say a MOPEish tendency, to see police actions as tough on usuns/soft on themuns. This is particularly prevalent in the divided society that is Northern Ireland.

    There is of course quite rightly a ‘different approach’ by the police in different circumstances. The first, and most basic, decision by a police officer contemplating action is that it must be appropriate and reasonable in the circumstances: those are the circumstances present at the time.

    The police, unlike some of the contributors here, do not employ whataboutery. The PSNI is subject to one of the most stringent oversight regimes in the world. In disorder situations they will ensure that all the ‘i’s are dotted, all the ‘t’s crossed because they can rest assured that the Ombudsman will be seeking evidence of the decision making trail post the incident.

    For those, and obviously there are some here, unfamiliar with what governs the thought processes of police when it comes to considering the use of force the UNHCR Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials is a good start point and an easy read that covers the salient points.

    As to investigations, they take time. Gathering evidence from social media outlets is time consuming as is the subsequent identification of the specific users suspected of law breaking. Police cannot arrest people without evidence. They cannot charge people with crime without a prima facia case having been built. Courts frown on police and the PPS bringing people before them without the evidence to support the charges they face.

    The disturbances in London have been cited as good police practice. It should be remembered that it was some time before those involved faced sentencing. Indeed one does not have to travel so far for examples of the time these things take.

    The case involving threats to kill Gregory Campbell on a social media site took many months before a sentence was passed at court on the individual involved.

    Of course anyone with information that may assist the police should make it available to them. Given some of the definitive commentary above they must surely be in possession of such?

  • redstar2011


    Strong bow I take it you’re on your comedy half hour

    Cut the bull and explain why they beat the protestors off the road at Ardoyne and yet stand idly by whilst these thugs block roads

    Your fairy tale stuff may well be believed by some Shinners who have to believe it or their world won’t make sense but the rest of us in Republican areas know there will be no kid gloves later this year if we oppose orange parades

  • tacapall

    “At a press conference today, he said: “I am concerned that senior members of the UVF in east Belfast as individuals have been increasingly orchestrating some of this violence.”

    Obviously the PSNI have evidence of the above and these senior loyalists can now be charged with directing terrorism and taken off the streets.

  • galloglaigh, Perhaps we should be grateful to Baggott for not apologising to the UVF as his ACC did over flying flags on a catholic church last year. The PSNI has been getting back to old RUC attitudes since Baggott took over.

  • sonofstrongbow

    redstar 2011,

    Here’s what you should do. Arm yourself with an understanding of the UNHCR document I’ve mentioned together with the myriad of other material; police Use of Force models from across the globe, Human Rights cases found on police tactical actions from all over the world, all freely available in the public domain on the Internet and elsewhere.

    Gather it all together with any affidavits or signed statements of evidence from people who were “beat ….off the streets” and take it to the Ombudsman and make a complaint about how the police have erred in their duty.

    Should you not trust PONI try the CAJ or the Pat Finucane Centre. I’ll await the outcome.

    Mind you I’m not interested in empty reports just charges against police for the unreasonable, nay criminal, use of force you so strongly allege.

  • redstar2011

    Danielsmoran Psni apologist strongbow will be able to explain the impartial Psni apology given to the UVF

  • Redstar [3.10] You’re right the comparison is on the nail. SF are embarassed but they dare not allow this avenue of discussion, [that to admit what’s blatantly staring them in the face], is the inevitable followup questions and awkward bit of explaining why they’ve gone along for a quiet life at Stormont up to this point. Had to laugh when I read that Fraser has organised coach loads to Dublin to call for ticolour to come down from Leinster House, on a day when the flag doesn’t fly as house not sitting. Satire is already dead here.

  • Neil

    I’ve heard the same said at least a half dozen times today (in my mixed group of friends in work). Nationalists block one road when the Order are coming and they are removed. Loyalists block dozens of roads effectively cancelling Christmas for Belfast’s traders and driving people out of business and they are facilitated in their law breaking by the PSNI.

    Any road blockage is illegal, and anything which hypothetically might be intimidating to a hypothetical person is also now a crime under Section 5 (which is ridiculous, but there you go).

  • keano10

    Dear Matt Baggott,

    Just about an hour ago, the homes of pensioners living in Strand Walk were attacked by hundreds of loyalist returning from The City Hall. Among the weapons which they suddenly found to use were bricks bottles and erm, fireworks…

    I’m sorry Mr Baggott but just after hours after your statement, you have failed to protect some very vunerable people.

    Then again this is’nt Ardoyne is it??

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’ve seen video footage of the police very aggressively pushing the protestors/rioters up the road and using dogs to keep them back. Good job in my view, but I’m not sure that they are being softer than they would be in Ardoyne. I didn’t see dogs in Ardoyne, and I didn’t see the police pushing their way through Ardoyne.

    There are differences in the profile of the violence which fundamentally must effect the police strategy. Up in Ardoyne the riots tend to last into the early evening after a march has passed. The rioting tends to be sustained but focussed on a small area which the police can relatively easily surround and focus on.

    The problems at the moment are different. You have people organizing illegal parades in and out of Belfast, spread out over a wide area and putting large numbers of people including a lot of small children on the street. The protests have also not just been one evening, it is spread over a long period of time, and the police are presumably trying to avoid creating a situation where the protests continue.

    The police have made some serious mistakes, one of those was the idea that the loyalists who rioted up in Ballycastle a few years ago deserved an apology for being provoked. Those mistakes are an outworking of the poor political leadership we have in this country where politicians are highly conditional in their support for the rule of law.

  • “The police have made some serious mistakes, one of those was the idea that the loyalists who rioted up in Ballycastle a few years ago deserved an apology for being provoked.”

    Comrade, have you got a link to that riot story? Do you mean this one in 2001? It certainly wasn’t this one. Organisers had to make changes following the attacks on an OO parade in 2001 when potatoes containing protruding six-inch nails were hurled.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Sorry, I meant Ballyclaire.

  • BluesJazz

    The police dogs used were not exactly Rottweilers. At least one on tv was a cocker spaniel?? Which pretty much sums up the PSNI.

    However, after the Met got caught out with the Ian Thomlinson ‘incident’ I can understand the reluctance.

    But it’s hardly Syria, pushing some snotty adolescents off the street is not a tough job. Why not use horses like the Met? I suppose our pathetic new police ‘service’ wouldn’t want to injure themselves by falling off.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Disappointingly for the second time in 24 hours police in East Belfast have failed to effectively deploy to prevent clashes at the Short Strand/ Newtownards Road interface.

    Both BBC and UTV pictures show nationalist rioters attacking loyalists as they approach the bottom of the Newtownards Road from the city centre.

    Given that police resources were much in evidence on the Newtownards Road all day it is inexplicable why some officers were not also deployed on the nationalist side of the ‘peace wall’.

    This event will fuel the suspicion that the PSNI remains overly sensitive about tactically deploying into nationalist areas, even when there exist sound tactical reasons why they should as in East Belfast tonight.

    The same sensitivity is at play in the run up to loyalist marches past Ardoyne when the police confine themselves to the Crumlin Road. As a result they bear the brunt of nationalist violence from rioters seemingly operating unhindered in the Ardoyne estate.

    If nationalist rioters have not been arrested this evening this will provide an opportunity for loyalist spokespeople to try to shift the spotlight away from loyalist lawbreakers where it has rightfully been for some days.

    Ironically tomorrow we may hear loyalists echoing nationalist complaints about softly-softly policing of others whilst dealing ‘heavy handedly’ with them.

  • DC

    They are coming down too hard on them in the east and did you see the way Willie Frazer was rolled around the side of the police landrover by PSNI brute force, brute force it was, saw it on Youtube?

  • DC

    Here is Willie Frazer getting set on, needlessly!

  • 6crealist

    Changed times since Willie’s family were involved in the old ‘security forces’, eh DC?

  • Mister Joe[5.29] Aye, there’s the rub. The same implied threat lies in that statement as lies in the question asked by unionist politicians as in ‘Why was such a vote taken, knowing the inevitable outcome as seen in the mayhem now unleashed. It’s saying without openly admitting it, that loyalists and unionists will commit criminal acts and expect the threat of same to prevent any democratic will being exercised under the threat of viollence, while at the same time claiming to be democrats themselves. Nice work if you can get it.

  • Usually when you want to succeed at something you learn from others in that field who are successful, learning by example. Israel has two paramilitary parties that were successful, the Herut Party–which eventually became the Likud, and Ahdut Ha’Avoda–which eventually became part of the Labor Party. The Republic of Ireland, which is much closer to Northern Ireland, has had four or five successful paramilitary parties from Fine Gael and Fianna Fail to Cumann naPoblachta. What all these parties in both countries had in common is that they gave up illegal terrorist activities before going before the electorate. But I suppose that if the only example you look to is the post 1982 version of Sinn Fein, then one might think that serving as the political wing of a paramilitary organization is the way to go. Or it could just be that organizations run by criminals who specialize in running protection rackets and drug distribution have different priorities. So does anyone imagine that the PUP will begin examining its links to the UVF and Red Hand Commando in light of the recent activities in East Belfast anytime soon?

  • Reader

    danielsmoran: (quoting a unionist politician) : Why was such a vote taken, knowing the inevitable outcome as seen in the mayhem now unleashed
    I can’t find that quote, can you give us a link please?