Thirty officers injured by loyalists in Belfast Union Flag protests
Belfast-born David McKittrick has been reporting on Northern Ireland since 1971, He has written for the East Antrim Times, the Irish Times and was The Independent's Irish correspondent for many years. He is the author of several books including Making Sense of the Troubles (2000) and Lost Lives (1999).
Sunday 09 December 2012
Police in Northern Ireland were last night at full stretch as sporadic loyalist protests over flag-flying broke out in many areas in and around Belfast.
An injured officer was taken to hospital following police clashes with loyalists in the east of the city in one of a number of incidents following a city-centre protest rally.
While most incidents were non-violent and did not last long, in some cases protesters threw bottles and bricks at officers.
The police and members of the non-sectarian Alliance Party have borne the brunt of the protests, which have now gone on for several days. Almost 30 officers have been injured, as loyalists went on the rampage.
Several homes and offices of members of the Alliance Party have been attacked by loyalists taking exception to the party's support for restrictions on the flying of the Union Flag at Belfast City Hall.
In the latest incident, the County Down home of the Alliance councillor Linda Cleland was attacked early yesterday. She said she heard people on her roof, adding: "They've put in all my downstairs windows, they've put in all the windows of my car and they've put in one of my upstairs windows. I have never been so scared in my life, or felt so helpless."
The Democratic Unionist Westminster MP Jim Shannon said: "These attacks are not protest, they are raw terrorism. The cowards responsible for attacking the home of an innocent and defenceless woman must cease their actions."
Appealing for calm, police described the disorders as "thuggery disguised as protest". A senior officer said: "Loyalist paramilitary groups are now actively involved in orchestrating this disorder – we have seen that in the last couple of nights."
Up to 2,000 people took part in yesterday's rally, which passed off without incident. A controversial sectarian song was sung by those attending, followed by the National Anthem.
On Friday night, several dozen loyalists disrupted a council Christmas dinner near Belfast, hijacking and burning two vehicles and smashing the windscreens of other cars.
'Fire at every person you see': Israeli soldiers reveal they were ordered to shoot to kill in Gaza – even if the targets may have been civilians
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Who should I vote for? The Independent quiz matches best political party for undecided voters ahead of the general election
First-time buyers in London 'need to earn at least £77,000'
General Election 2015: Photographic history of Bullingdon Club tracked down - including new picture of David Cameron in his finery
In defence of liberal democracy
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
- 2 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy