Disruption and disorder once again broke out in Northern Ireland last night as loyalists carried out their threat to stage major protests in a dispute over the flying of the Union Flag in Belfast.
The actions went ahead despite a week of warnings from political leaders and business figures that the month-long protests are harming the province’s image and the local economy.
At one point last night, police fired five plastic bullets at rioters and deployed water cannon in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim after petrol bombs has been thrown. At several locations, including Cloughfern on the outskirts of Belfast, petrol bombs, bricks and other missiles were thrown at police. In other instances no violence was reported, but large numbers of roadblocks caused serious disruption.
After a vehicle was set alight, bus services to almost all areas were suspended, although many workers left work early to escape the disruption.
Protesters had threatened to launch what they called “Operation Standstill,” posting on the internet a list of roads which were to be sealed off.
Meanwhile, Belfast City Council could face legal action over its decision to restrict the flying of the flag, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said. The party, which opposed the change, has lodged a formal complaint.
A DUP spokesman said: “We believe that, both in its processes and in its decision over the removal of the flag, the council made multiple breaches of its... equality scheme.”
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