Belfast hit by second night of violence

FLASHPOINT::A planned parade which sparked the violence in the Northern Irish capital has long been a source of tension between Protestants and Catholics

AFP, BELFAST

Mon, Jul 15, 2013 - Page 7

Seven police officers were injured in Belfast after being attacked with Molotov cocktails in a second night of violence by Protestant rioters in the Northern Ireland capital.

Bricks, bottles, furniture and other missiles were also hurled on Saturday following riots that left 32 officers injured and a politician hospitalized on Friday.

Hooded youths, some with British flags covering their faces, were involved in the clashes in the north of the city.

Police responded by firing baton rounds and using water cannon.

The unrest was not as severe as on Friday night, when 22 people were arrested after crowds attacked police with Molotov cocktails, sticks, fireworks, bricks, bottles, masonry and even a sword.

Another 11 arrests were made overnight on Saturday.

About 1,000 police from mainland Britain had been sent to Northern Ireland in anticipation of tensions over the traditional July 12 parades, the pinnacle of the Protestant Orange Order’s marching season.

Trouble flared on Friday after police tried to enforce a decision by an adjudication body banning the Orange Order from marching through a Catholic republican area of Belfast.

“The scenes were both shameful and disgraceful,” Chief Constable Matt Baggott of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) told reporters.

He criticized leaders in the Orange Order who had called for protests against the decision to block their march through the republican Ardoyne area.

“Some of their language was emotive and having called thousands of people to protest they had no plan and no control,” Baggott said. “Rather than being responsible, I think the word for that is reckless.”

The PSNI said 32 officers were injured in Friday night’s violence. Leading Protestant politician Nigel Dodds was taken to hospital after being hit on the head with a brick and knocked out.

Dodds, who represents North Belfast in the British parliament, had been trying to calm the crowds down.

He was discharged from hospital early on Saturday.

The July 12 parade marks the victory of Protestant king William III of Orange over the deposed Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

It is a flashpoint for tensions between the Protestant and Catholic communities in the province, which was devastated by three decades of sectarian violence in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

The 1998 Good Friday peace accords largely brought an end to the unrest, known as The Troubles, although sporadic violence and bomb threats continue.