AS some of Lurgan’s children took to the streets to celebrate the town’s past, others took to the streets to blight its future.
More than 30 petrol bombs were thrown and a plastic bullet fired during rioting in the town at the weekend.
Police came under “sustained and heavy attack” after attending a security alert on the Antrim Road on Saturday afternoon.
The bomb alert was later declared an elaborate hoax and a number of items were removed for forensic examination.
Children as young as 12 took part in the violence in Lake Street, during which six police Land Rovers were damaged.
One teenager was struck on the leg by a plastic baton round.
At the other end of the scale children of much the same age took part in an entirely peaceful and wholesome lantern parade in the town centre bringing a highly successful new year market to a close.
The two images could not have been more starkly contrasting - in one case small faces lit by the light of a lantern while other equally small faces were lit by the sinister light of petrol bombs.
And while Saturday’s market earned praise from all who particpated, the violence happening only a few hundred yards away was roundly condemned.
Chief Inspector Ken Mawhinney hit out at the “orchestrated violence”.
“My officers came under a sustained and heavy attack with missiles, fireworks, and a substantial number of petrol bombs and paint bombs thrown at them,” he said.
“It’s our belief that the hoax was an effort to entice officers into the area to attack the very service the community say they want.
“The unit involved in this showed great restraint. There were 34 petrol bombs thrown.”
Mr Mawhinney continued: “Unfortunately there are a number of individuals who, for whatever reason, are intent on disrupting the whole community and attacking my officers. They have no place in our society.”
The disorder lasted from about 3.30pm until 7.30pm, and train services were disrupted between Moira and Portadown because of debris on the track.
A number of homes in the Lake Street area were evacuated at the height of the violence.
SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly described the rioting as “plain stupid.”
“People in north Lurgan are sick, sore and tired of security incidents and alerts caused by dissidents,” said Mrs Kelly.
“This is all getting wearily predictable. Lake Street and Antrim Street are closed off with suspicious devices and right on cue there are youths on the railway and the line has to be closed.
“Naturally the police have to take every threat and warning with the utmost seriousness given that we are dealing with people who have shown they are ready to put bombs in bins beside children.
“But the people of the area are weary beyond words and absolutely furious with this planned and orchestrated disruption by tiny groups who can’t even put a coherent statement of their aims together.
Mrs Kelly added: “We must keep appealing to young people, and to the parents who should be exercising some degree of control over them, not to get taken in by those who stay away from the front line, not to take part in so-called recreational rioting.
“This disruption is hitting their neighbours, their own families and relatives. It can lead to nothing positive, it can serve no cause, it is just plain stupid as well as dangerous.”