Police attacked in fifth night of Belfast violence
More than 70 police officers injured since trouble started last week
People walk past a burnt out car on the Shore Road in north Belfast on Monday night after police came under attack from loyalists throwing petrol bombs. Photograph: Reuters
Police came under attack for a fifth successive night in Belfast, with around 35 petrol bombs thrown at officers by loyalists.
The majority of trouble was in the east of the city, with sporadic unrest in other areas, including Newtownabbey in greater Belfast. Police deployed a water cannon in north Belfast.
Six cars and a moped were set alight. A spokeswoman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said: “Police dealt with sporadic pockets of disorder across a number of locations in the Belfast and Newtownabbey area last night.
“The number of people involved in the disorder was lower than on previous nights.” In previous nights the Woodvale area in north Belfast bore the brunt of the disorder.
The riots first flared on Friday night in Woodvale when Orangemen were prevented from marching through the nearby nationalist Ardoyne area on their way home from traditional Orange Order Twelfth of July commemorations.
So far a total of 62 people have been arrested for public order offences. No police officers were injured in last night’s clashes but 71 were hurt in the previous four nights of unrest.
Yesterday politicians in Northern Ireland backed a motion which described the ban on the controversial Orange Order parade as “illogical”.
The Democratic Unionist motion was won by a single vote during a specially reconvened sitting of the Stormont Assembly. During the two-hour debate DUP First Minister Peter Robinson claimed the Parades Commission - the adjudicating body set up in 1998 to deal with contentious parades - had got it wrong when it banned the march and said the body lacked credibility.
Mr Robinson also called for the Orange Order to engage with an all party working group led by former US special envoy to Northern Ireland Richard Haass to come up with an alternative to the Commission.
The Parades Commission published restrictions on the north Belfast parade on July 9th. It ruled that the Orange Order could march past Ardoyne on the Crumlin Road on the morning of July 12 but could not use the same return route on Friday afternoon.
Yesterday, Willie Frazer, who was prominent in the loyalist flags dispute earlier this year, was arrested while a second protest leader, Amie Bryson, was barred from attending a Stormont debate on the recent disorder.
Mr Frazer, who was involved in leading the loyalist flags protests earlier this year, was arrested by the PSNI yesterday in east Belfast. He is currently on bail facing a number of charges relating to the protests. His bail conditions include not being within two miles of protests, demonstrations or processions.
His associate, Jamie Bryson, who was also involved in spearheading the protests, was yesterday barred by a Belfast court from attending the Northern Assembly debate on the Parades Commission and the violence over the Twelfth of July period. He also is on bail on charges relating to the flags dispute. He is banned from being within a mile of any protest or demonstration.
On Monday the US vice- president Mr Biden contacted Mr Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness by telephone to say he was deeply concerned about parade-related violence and attacks on police.
The vice-president told Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness he supported calls for calm and respect for the rule of law, the White House said in a statement.
Mr Biden also spoke to the new chair of the all-party group Mr Haass. The group will address sensitive issues such as parades, protests, flags, symbols and emblems.
“The vice-president and the US government, along with the British and Irish governments, will stay in close touch with Dr Haass as he assists the political parties of Northern Ireland in the crucial work of healing the divisions of the past and building a truly shared future,” Mr Biden’s office said.
Tackling sensitive issues was “essential to creating a lasting peace and assuring the road to prosperity for all in Northern Ireland”, the White House said. “It will require political courage, creativity and compromise on the part of all Northern Ireland’s political parties.”
Additional reporting: PA