Police officers injured in Northern Ireland as Loyalists riot over right to fly the Union Flag


Police officers injured in Northern Ireland as loyalists protests reignite over ban on flying the Union Flag over Belfast City Hall
Crowd of up to 300 people hurled
fireworks, bricks and petrol bombs

PUBLISHED:

02:35 GMT, 5 January 2013

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UPDATED:

02:36 GMT, 5 January 2013

Several police officers were injured in Northern Ireland last night as loyalist protests reignited over the ban on flying the Union Flag over Belfast City Hall.

A crowd of up to 300 people hurled fireworks, bricks and petrol bombs during a sustained attack on officers in east Belfast. Water cannon had been deployed, police said.

Rioting began a month ago after a vote by mostly nationalist pro-Irish councillors to end the century-old tradition of flying the British flag from Belfast City Hall every day unleashed the most sustained period of violence in the city for years.

Flag protests: Several police officers were injured during loyalist violence in Northern Ireland over the right to fly the Union Flag

Flag protests: Several police officers were injured during loyalist violence in Northern Ireland over the right to fly the Union Flag

A PSNI spokesman said: 'A number of officers have been injured and several arrests made.'

Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson said violence against the police was a disgrace and those behind days of unrest were playing into the hands of dissident republicans.

On Thursday 10 police officers were injured in East Belfast during a demonstration against the decision to reduce the number of days the union flag is flown from Belfast city hall.

Officers in riot gear gather by a police Landrover with the remains of a petrol bomb, thrown by protesting Loyalists in east Belfast

Officers in riot gear gather by a police Landrover with the remains of a petrol bomb, thrown by protesting Loyalists in east Belfast

Spark: Rioting began a month ago after a vote by mostly nationalist pro-Irish councillors to end the century-old tradition of flying the British flag from Belfast City Hall every day

Spark: Rioting began a month ago after a vote by mostly nationalist pro-Irish councillors to end the century-old tradition of flying the British flag from Belfast City Hall every day

Mr Robinson said: 'The violence and destruction visited on the PSNI is a disgrace, criminally wrong and cannot be justified.

'Those responsible are doing a grave disservice to the cause they claim to espouse and are playing into the hands of those dissident groups who would seek to exploit every opportunity to further their terror aims.”

He said some demonstrators were employing language borrowed from the republican handbook to demonise police and undermine the DUP through a call for direct rule from London.

Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson said violence against the police was a disgrace and those behind days of unrest were playing into the hands of dissident republicans

Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson said violence against the police was a disgrace and those behind days of unrest were playing into the hands of dissident republicans

Police in east Belfast were dealing with serious public disorder in the Castlereagh Street and Templemore Avenue areas last night

Police in east Belfast were dealing with serious public disorder in the Castlereagh Street and Templemore Avenue areas last night

'All right-thinking unionists will want to channel their energies into political activity and to support the cause of finding political solutions to the problems that we face,' Mr Robinson said.

'In Northern Ireland the ballot box has primacy and is the only vehicle for choosing the people's representatives.'

Police in east Belfast were dealing with serious public disorder in the Castlereagh Street and Templemore Avenue areas last night.