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Embrace of a killer: Former IRA terrorist Martin McGuinness greets Hillary Clinton as she arrives in Ulster while loyalists riot in Belfast over restrictions on Union flag
Two explosive devices, a car bomb and a letter bomb, foundDissident republicans thought to have been attempting bomb attack in DerryU.S. Secretary of State meeting Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinnessRecent protests in country after Belfast City Hall vote to fly Union flag on limited number of days
23:06 GMT, 7 December 2012
If Hillary Clinton had any misgivings about exchanging a kiss and a handshake with a man who used to be known as the Butcher of Bogside, she did a very good job of hiding them.
The US Secretary of State was all smiles as she met former IRA terrorist and Ulster’s deputy first minister Martin McGuinness when she arrived in Belfast for her eighth visit to the province.
Her visit comes as rioting broke out across Belfast tonight after hundreds of loyalists took to the streets to protest over flags.
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Greeting: Mrs Clinton is welcomed to Belfast with a kiss on the cheek from Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness. She arrived in Northern Ireland with heightened sectarian tensions in the country
Riots tonight: A hijacked car burns at Shaftsbury Square near Belfast city centre tonight as rioting broke out after hundreds of loyalists took to the streets to protest over flags
Two police officers were injured, one of them hospitalised, during clashes close to the city centre.
Trouble flared at Shaftesbury Square – a popular party spot near Queen’s University – after a man tried to drive a black van through a loyalist road block of about 200 people.
Eye witnesses said police officers were pelted with stones, bricks, bottles and other missiles. Two cars were also set on fire.
A spokeswoman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland said: 'Police can confirm that a vehicle was driven erratically in the Shaftesbury Square area during minor disturbances.'
Mrs Clinton's visit will probably be one of her
last foreign trips as Secretary of State – she steps down in the New
Year – was overshadowed by heightened tensions in Northern Ireland.
Feelings have been running high since restrictions were imposed on flying the Union Flag over Belfast City Hall.
Riot police look on as loyalists protest against a restriction on the number of days the Union flag can be flown over Belfast City Hall have held protests across Northern Ireland
'No surrender': Loyalists in Newtownabbey in Northern Ireland as every night this week protests have taken place despite appeals from the First Minister for the pickets to be suspended
Loyalists have held protests across Northern Ireland every night this week despite appeals from the First Minister for the pickets to be suspended.
Tonight demonstrations were also held in the greater Belfast area, Bangor, Co Down, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh and Dungannon, Co Tyrone. Police said there were no reports of violence outside Belfast.
Stop: The U.S. Secretary of State appealed for the violence, which continued tonight, to stop
Last night police clashed with loyalists in Ian Paisley’s home town of Ballymena, Co Antrim.
Mrs Clinton said: ‘There will always
be disagreement in democratic societies, but violence is never an
acceptable response. All need to confront the remaining challenge of
sectarian divisions, peacefully together.’
There are also plans for a major protest in the Belfast city centre tomorrow. Traders are worried it could affect business on what should be one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
Only hours before she arrived, two bombs were found and a death threat issued against East Belfast MP Naomi Long.
The discovery of the potentially deadly devices follows a week of rising sectarian tensions in the country.
U.S. Secretary of State met Northern Ireland First Minister Peter
Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Stormont Castle,
A car was stopped in Derry this
morning and police intercepted an explosive device they believed was to
be planted by dissident republicans
hours later a letter bomb was found at a postbox in a loyalist area of
Co Down, raising the possibility that paramilitaries were hoping to
capitalise on the publicity of Mrs Clinton's visit.
Friendly handshake: As one of the world's most senior diplomat, Mrs Clinton received a warm welcome on one of her last foreign trips as Secretary of State
All smiles: The US Secretary of State with Mr McGuinness (left) and first minister Peter Robinson when she arrived for her eighth visit to the province
Tensions have been rising in the country over the last few days after a controversial vote to restrict the number of days per year on which the Union flag is flown on Belfast City Hall.
Mrs Clinton used a speech at Stormont to say that violence is 'never an acceptable response to disagreements'.
Her discussions with Northern Ireland's leaders were meant to centre on the economy and the peace process but were overshadowed by loyalist protests in the country and the discovery of the car bomb.
The Secretary of State praised the unionist and nationalist leaders flanking her and added that parties needed to 'confront the remaining challenge of sectarian divisions, peacefully together'.
call came after East Belfast MP Naomi Long received a death threat as a
result of recent tensions, as she was warned by police to stay away
from her home and constituency office.
Laughter: The U.S. Secretary of State meets with Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson, right, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, left, at Stormont Castle, Belfast
Peace process: The U.S Secretary of State has long been involved with Northern Ireland, having visited the country on eight occasions. Her usband Bill was a key player on the peace process
Detectives are questioning four men about the discovery of the bomb in Derry's Creggan estate last night.
chiefs believe dissident republicans opposed to the peace process were
planning an attack in the centre of the city, which is next year's
inaugural UK City of Culture.
discovery of the letter bomb at Clough, a loyalist area near Newcastle,
Co Down, was disclosed by police two hours before Mrs Clinton's
It was also found last night when officers were alerted to suspicious activity near a postbox.
Clinton's husband, former US president Bill, was a key player in the
peace process during the 1990s making several visits
and encouraging negotiations between nationalists and unionists.
Mrs Clinton has been to Northern Ireland on eight occasions before
and will have been well advised before her arrival in Belfast today
about increasing loyalist anger on the streets because of the decision
by the city council to limit the flying of the Union flag at City Hall.
is her second visit as secretary of state, with the last in 2009 when
she encouraged the devolution of policing and justice powers from London
The discovery of another dissident republican bomb in Derry is the latest in a line of failed attacks in the area.
Relaxed: Despite the recent tensions in the country and the discovery of the explosive devices, both Mrs Clinton and First minister Peter Robinson appeared relaxed as they met in Stormont, Belfast
Visit: The U.S. Secretary of State would have been warned about recent sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland. She had been attending a conference in Dublin
Pat Ramsey, an SDLP Northern Ireland
assembly member, said people in his home city were angry at the
disruption caused by this latest bomb alert.
said: 'Once again, the people of the Creggan are the victims of
disruption, distress and anger. People are genuinely fed-up with this.
are first of all looking forward to Christmas with their families and
then, next year, to the City of Culture. And this may have something to
do with it because the dissidents have consistently said we will not
have anything resembling normality during the UK City of Culture year.
was freezing cold last night and there were people in their 80s and 90s
who were moved from their home. Some forgot medication.
He added: 'The people they tell us they represent are the people who are being disrupted. This has to stop.
'Thank God the police found the bomb and the people of this city or somewhere else are not waking up to destruction today.'
Plea for calm: Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson has appealed for loyalists to suspend all street protests over the Union flag decision
Dissident republicans, who were behind the murder of prison officer David Black last month, have been particularly active in the Londonderry area in recent years.
They are opposed to the UK City of Culture status that has been bestowed on the city for next year.
Attempts have been made to blow up the City of Culture offices on a number of occasions because it is seen as a highly symbolic target.
In March, dissidents tried to bomb Derry Courthouse and there have been attacks on police stations in the city.
They have also been responsible for a number of murders and have forced young men to leave Derry in disputes about drug-dealing in the area.
Following the controversial flag vote, loyalists have been holding protests across the country to show their opposition to the decision to restrict the number of days the flag is flown.
Councillors from the non-sectarian Alliance Party have been intimidated and in one case the party's offices were destroyed by fire.
Stand-off: Protestors wrapped in Union flags confront police
Confrontation: Violence and protests has sparked in Northern Ireland over the last few days
VIDEO: Clinton condemns violence in Northern Ireland as car bomb is found in Derry
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