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ulster tensions First Minister says 'criminal' elements behind Ulster violence, but still hasn't met with Chief Constable

Arlene Foster's comments come after a week of violence which has seen over 40 officers injured


Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster

First Minister Arlene Foster has condemned "malign" and "criminal" elements behind the recent rioting and violence in Northern Ireland.

Her comments come after reports paramilitary organisations orchestrated some of the violence which has occurred over the last week.

In some cases it was reported children as young as 12 were involved in the disturbances in which over 40 police officers have been injured, with one officer sustaining serious injuries to their leg.

So far 10 arrests have been made in relation to the unrest.

In the last week there have been violent scenes in Derry, Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey, Ballymena and Belfast.

Speaking of the violence in Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey, both strongholds of South East Antrim UDA, Mrs Foster said: "I do absolutely accept that this is the case in a particular area of Northern Ireland, but South East Antrim UDA does not have rite in other parts of Northern Ireland, so there are concerns right across Northern Ireland.”

Mrs Foster also reiterated her stance on calling for the resignation of the PSNI's Chief Constable, Simon Byrne, over his handling of the Bobby Storey funeral last summer.

Doubling down on her view that he should resign, she said the Chief Constable "needs to take responsibility for the actions that were taken by his senior command team" in regards to the republican funeral which was attended by senior Sinn Fein members.

She also said that she believes "confidence has gone in his leadership and I think confidence has gone in the senior management team".

It has emerged that the UK's policing body, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, is to launch a review of the PSNI's handling of the funeral.

Mrs Foster has insisted that she still backs the police, saying "the police have my full support".

She added: "There is no difficulty in supporting police, we support the rule of law, it's actually because we support the rule of law that we are so perplexed by the decision of the PPS not to prosecute those who very clearly broke the law at the Bobby Storey funeral."

She also said that she is prepared to engage with disillusioned loyalists, saying she will "always speak with people to try and bring them along and change them in a constitutional way and I will continue to engage with loyalist communities, there is a huge need to engage with loyalist and unionist communities and I will not be stepping away from that as the leader of unionism."

Mrs Foster is currently not engaging with the Chief Constable over the recent violence, and has received criticism in that decision from Ulster Unionist politician Doug Beattie who said he believes the First Minister is "wrong in this particular instance".

Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd also said it would be "helpful" for the First Minister to meet with the chief Constable.

Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Assembly has been recalled to sit tomorrow to address issues surrounding the recent violence.

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