Violence Flares as Protests Grow; FLAG RIOTS IN THE NORTH

Article excerpt

POLICE in Northern Ireland reacted to violence from street rioters last night with plastic bullets.

Missiles including petrol bombs, paint bombs, fireworks and heavy masonry were thrown at the police in East Belfast and a number of vehicles were attacked with hatchets and sledge hammers.

Officers used water cannon and responded to the violence by firing five baton rounds.

Hundreds of loyalist protesters gathered at several areas of Belfast, mostly in the east of the city.

A lorry was hijacked and the terrified driver ran away with the keys after locking the cab.

The incident happened beside a huge mural of the late loyalist leader David Irvine, with the phrase : "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

In a fifth consecutive night of rioting, the PSNI used water cannon to disperse those taking part.

The violence started close to the nationalist Short Strand area as loyalists People returned from a protest at the City Hall.

PSNI officers came under attack from petrol bombs and bricks while working to separating rival gangs. The angry protests were triggered on December 3 when Belfast councillors voted to limit the days the union flag flies over City Hall in a motion brought by the Alliance party. …