Man arrested after shots fired at Northern Irish police in flag riots

BELFAST Sat Jan 5, 2013 5:55pm GMT

1 of 9. A police officer in riot gear walks past people at a bus stop in central Belfast January 5, 2013. Northern Irish police came under attack by pro-British loyalists on Friday as the province's first minister branded rioters 'a disgrace' and said they were playing into the hands of rival militant nationalists. Rioting began a month ago after a vote by mostly nationalist pro-Irish councilors 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.

Credit: Reuters/Cathal McNaughton

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BELFAST (Reuters) - Northern Irish police arrested a 38-year-old man on Saturday on suspicion of attempted murder after shots were fired at police officers during protests over the removal of the British flag from Belfast City Hall.

Police used water cannon against more than 100 protesters hurling fireworks, smoke bombs and bricks in the eastern part of the city shortly after a demonstration outside City Hall calling for the flag to be reinstated on a permanent basis.

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

The violence, which stopped over Christmas, began again on Thursday and 19 police officers have been injured since then, bringing the total number of officers hurt since early December to more than 60.

Loyalists blamed Saturday's fighting on anti-British Catholic nationalists who they said attacked them first.

Militant nationalists, responsible for the killings of three police officers and two soldiers since 2009, have so far not reacted violently to the flag protests, limiting any threat to 15 years of peace in Northern Ireland.

However, Peter Robinson, the British-controlled province's first minister, said on Friday that rioters were playing into the hands of nationalist groups, who would seek to exploit every opportunity "to further their terror aims".

At least 3,600 people were killed during Northern Ireland's darkest period as Catholic nationalists seeking union with Ireland fought British security forces and mainly Protestant loyalists determined to remain part of the United Kingdom.

The violence was mostly ended by a 1998 peace deal.

(Reporting by Eamonn Mallie; Editing by Louise Ireland and Padraic Halpin)

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Comments (3)
johnbligh wrote:
I write as a protestant. Isn’t it time that, once and for all, both communities made an all-out and concerted effort to publicly and vociferously condemn the activities of the mindless thugs on both sides and make a stand for democratic debate and resolution? It is surely the duty of all citizens of Northern Ireland to make it clear that peace is far too precious for it to be hijacked by the minorities that perpetrate acts that have absolutely no place in a modern civilized society. They bring shame on Northern Ireland but the vast law abiding majority should not leave condemnation to the politicians and authorities. The future is in their hands and, before it’s too late, they should make a supreme effort to take every possible opportunity to shout as loudly as they can that that this appalling behavior is simply wrong and will not shift the country’s desire to maintain the hard won peace.

Jan 04, 2013 1:45am GMT  --  Report as abuse
mgb500 wrote:
johnbligh wrote:

I write as a protestant. Isn’t it time that, once and for all, both communities made an all-out and concerted effort to publicly and vociferously condemn the activities of the mindless thugs on both sides and make a stand for democratic debate and resolution? It is surely the duty of all citizens of Northern Ireland to make it clear that peace is far too precious for it to be hijacked by the minorities that perpetrate acts that have absolutely no place in a modern civilized society. They bring shame on Northern Ireland but the vast law abiding majority should not leave condemnation to the politicians and authorities. The future is in their hands and, before it’s too late, they should make a supreme effort to take every possible opportunity to shout as loudly as they can that that this appalling behavior is simply wrong and will not shift the country’s desire to maintain the hard won peace.

Well said! But I am afraid that the mindless thugs, the cowards who plant bombs, the cowards who murder women & children, the cowards who throw petrol bombs, the cowards who throw bricks are the ones that are being heard most and regarded by too many that their way is right.

Only if the decent folk of NI laugh in the faces of these animals & turn their backs on them will matters improve! Show the world what you can do – as the saying goes .a journey of 1,000 miles starts with the first footstep. All it takes is one to laugh in the face of a thug & soon NI will be pealing with the laughter as the cowards are shown up for what they really are – bullies and sniveling thugs! I don’t care about religion – protestant, catholic, atheist, hindu, sikh or potato worshipper…..

Jan 05, 2013 10:16am GMT  --  Report as abuse
Raymond.Vermont wrote:
Why can they not just stick the flag of ‘Noddy and Big Ears’ on top of the silly bloody building?

English people are sick and tired of the embarrassment of sharing a flag with such low-lifes inhabiting NI and displaying such behaviour!

Jan 05, 2013 10:51pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
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