A man has been arrested in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on suspicion of attempted murder after gunshots were reportedly fired during clashes between police and loyalist protesters.
The violence followed a peaceful march by almost 1,000 loyalists outside Belfast City Hall yesterday over the decision to reduce the number of days the Union flag is flown. But as the demonstrators dispersed, events turned ugly. About 100 loyalists hurled masonry and fireworks at officers. Police responded with water cannons and a section of the Newtownards Road was shut down because of the disorder.
There were no immediate reports of any police injuries, but a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) spokesman confirmed the arrest of a 38-year-old man after a number of shots were reportedly fired in east Belfast, the traditionally unionist-dominated area of the city. Two other men have also been arrested as part of the ongoing disturbance.
Conall McDevitt, policing spokesman for the Social Democratic and Labour Party, said the firing of shots at police 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," he said. He urged unionist leaders to reject the protests "before someone is killed or seriously injured".
Yesterday's violence marked three days of clashes in the city. On Friday, nine police were injured and 18 people arrested in east Belfast and Newtownabbey. Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson called the violence against police a "disgrace".