Tourists caught up in last weekend’s rioting have spoken of their fear and say they “feel sorry for the people in Derry.”
Yorick Amerlynck and San Vanlammeren from Brussels in Belgium were thrilled to be visiting the city for the first time with two female companions, but their trip was marred by images of burning cars, confrontational rioters and a palpable sense of fear.
Yorick Amerlynk recalled his initial apprehension at seeing the huge police presence in the city centre in preparation for the Twelfth parades.
“There were so many cops just standing around talking, they gave us a scary feeling like something was about to happen - and it did.”
Intimidated by the heavy police presence, the visitors then left the city centre and made their way to the Féile concert in Gasyard Park.
It was only then that the true extent of Derry’s problems became evident.
“When we saw the first car burning, the main feeling was surprise and wondering what the hell happened? How? Why?
“Then we saw two more vans completely burned and fear kicked in. We didn’t know the area very well, so we had to ask someone. Could we ask anyone? Will they hurt us? Or not?”
“A very strange feeling came over me that a lot of people didn’t seem surprised at all by this,” Mr Amerlynck said.
“Kids were playing in the street, throwing things against the burning cars… where were the parents? What kind of message are the grown-ups sending to their kids?”
Fellow traveller San Vanlammeren adds: “It was pretty scary. All I could think was “what is happening here?”
“To sum it up, we were scared, disappointed, agitated and nervous - not happy or relaxed as you would like to be on holiday.”
However, the group did eventually make it to the Gasyard Féile.
“Despite the rioting, I did enjoy myself, but the feelings were mixed,” Mr Vanlammeren said.
“At the end of the day I felt sorry for the people in Derry. It seems that most of the people just don’t seem to care.
“We know that this happens all over the world, even in Belgium, but it is the first time we were ever confronted with it. I hope it was the last time.”