Thu, Jul 15, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Belfast unrest enters a third day

AFP , BELFAST

Rioters in Northern Ireland hurled gasoline bombs at police and erected burning barricades at a Belfast flashpoint, as unrest that has left scores of police officers injured entered a third day.

Despite a fierce condemnation of the recent disturbances from the province’s leaders just hours earlier, rioters took to the streets again late on Tuesday. Youths in Ardoyne, a mainly Catholic area of north Belfast, hurled gasoline bombs and a pipe bomb at police officers and put up barricades which were set on fire, police said. Police deployed a water cannon in response. No new injuries were reported late on Tuesday.

It followed rioting by nationalist youths over the previous two nights, centred around Ardoyne, which has left 82 police officers injured. The disturbances come at the height of Northern Ireland’s marching season, when unrest often flares as Protestant marchers — in favor of continued British rule of the province — pass through areas mainly populated by Catholics, who are generally opposed to rule from London.

In the most violent riots of the past few days on Monday, dissident republicans threw petrol bombs and concrete slabs at Protestant Orangemen and their police escort as they marched through Ardoyne.

The province’s First Minister Peter Robinson and his deputy Martin McGuinness both criticized the violence on Tuesday.

“I am disgusted at the outright thuggery and vandalism that has taken place over the course of the last 48 hours,” said Robinson, leader of the Democratic Unionists.

“There is no excuse and no place for violence in civilized society... [we] will continue, to work for a resolution of the difficulties around parading,” he said.

“We must keep our entire focus on defeating those who would seek through violence and destruction to drag us back,” he said.

McGuinness, of the Catholic, republican Sinn Fein party, said: “Our experience demonstrates that the way to deal with any disputes or contention is through dialogue and agreement.”

The leaders’ response came after Northern Ireland police’s No. 2 Alistair Finlay criticized their grip on events and urged them to speak out against the violence.

Northern Ireland police chief Matt Baggott described Monday’s violence as “recreational rioting with a sinister edge,” as he released footage of riot officers being attacked with iron bars and wooden posts.

Police responded with rubber bullets and water cannon in a bid to subdue the demonstrators.

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