Shots fired during loyalist flag violence in Belfast

A burning barricade on the Newtownards road area of Belfast.
A burning barricade on the Newtownards road area of Belfast. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Police were attacked for a third night, with frontline officers reportedly coming under gunfire as fresh loyalist violence erupted in Northern Ireland over the flying of the Union Flag.

A 38-year-old man was arrested yesterday on suspicion of attempted murder, while two others were also detained amid ongoing street disturbances.

Last night officers in east Belfast came under sustained attack from a mob of around 100 loyalists throwing petrol bombs, fireworks, bricks and other masonry, the PSNI said.

A spokesman said officers dealt with disorder in the Newtownards Road, Albertbridge Road and Castlereagh Street and Templemore Avenue areas of the city, using water cannon and firing three AEP rounds (rubber and plastic rounds).

One officer was injured and a number of arrests were made, the PSNI said.

More than 1,000 demonstrators marched on Belfast's City Hall yesterday, but despite tense scenes and some scuffles the rally passed off without major incident.

There was a heavy police presence, including officers in riot gear with dogs stationed within the historic civic building itself and on surrounding side streets. But as the flag-waving crowds dispersed, ugly scenes flared again - for the third night in a row - on the Newtownards Road in the traditionally unionist east of the city.

A section of the road was shut down because of the sporadic disorder.

A PSNI spokesman said they were investigating reports from their own officers that a number of shots were fired at police lines.

Conall McDevitt, policing spokesman for the nationalist SDLP, said the firing of shots at police officers ended any claim to legitimacy by protest organisers.

Whatever grievance some people may have had, it is totally lost when they allow people to use these protests as cover for attempted murder.

There is only one response possible - and that's a firm policing response against everyone involved in illegal protests and anyone seeking to organise or encourage illegal or violent demonstrations.

– Conall McDevitt, policing spokesman for the nationalist SDLP

Mr McDevitt urged unionist leaders to publicly reject the protests "before someone is killed or seriously injured".