A GLENGORMLEY community worker has spoken of the terror inflicted by loyalist thugs as they ran riot through the town at the weekend.

Around 100 people threw bottles and bottles at police on Friday night (March 8) and attacked the offices of Alliance Party MLA David Ford.

The windows of a health and safety consultancy group in the same building were also smashed.

Five police officers were injured during the violence and a car was burnt out.

It’s believed a number of tricolours and starry plough flags were erected on the Antrim Road in the town shortly beforehand.

A crowd of loyalists then “marched” through the village, taking down the nationalist flags and replacing them with Union Jacks, before going on to attack the PSNI.

Catherine Hardy, secretary of Glengormley Community Group, had just returned from a trip to Serbia when the rioting broke out at around 7pm.

“I saw a large group of men gathering outside the Glen Inn. They started to march towards the town.

“I contacted a lot of the kids involved with our 50/50 youth project to tell them to stay away from the town, as it was getting dangerous.

“One of the kids actually walked into the town and was verbally threatened. They were obviously very shaken by this.”

Mrs Hardy said the loyalist mob lived outside the village.

“It was very violent and the atmosphere was extremely intimidating. Those involved were not children or teenagers. They were grown men.  It was a very frightening experience for people in the area.

“They came in to the town to make a point, they wrecked the place and then they left.”

She continued: “I would, however, like to praise the young people in the area. Some of them were effectively trapped in the community centre because of the trouble.

“They stayed calm and behaved excellently. I’m very proud of them.”

The Alliance Party’s Alderman John Blair hit out at the rioters and those who erected the tricolours.

“At a time of high tensions, the people who put up the tricolours were every bit as guilty as those who attacked the police,” he said.

“People came into the town intending to cause trouble. We had people trying to remove flags and replace them with other flags.

“It’s important that individuals behave responsibly so that trouble of this kind can be avoided.

“Many people, especially community workers and local business people, have been working very hard to make this a better place in which to live and work. This will not be undermined.”

Sinn Fein councillor Gerry O'Reilly described the loyalists’ actions as “an attack on democracy”.

"The trouble that took place after the loyalist flag protest was a clear attempt to intimidate and strike fear into local residents in Glengormley.

“It was also another attack on democracy with the attack on the offices of a political party. Any excuse for this wanton destruction just doesn't wash.

“The erecting of our national flag in Glengormley to be used as either marking out territory or trying to antagonise others is disrespectful to that flag and residents have agreed with Sinn Fein that they do not want it."