Police officer injured in third night of Belfast riots

Petrol bombs and missiles met with rubber bullets as loyalists continue to protest ban on Orange Order parade

A police officer has been injured after a third successive night of rioting in Belfast, despite warnings throughout the day that those involved would face the courts within hours.

Violence flared up just before midnight, as loyalists and Orangemen protested a decision to ban a controversial parade near a set of nationalist-owned shops.

Members of the riot squad were trying to remove a large stash of potential missiles in the Woodvale Road area when they were attacked with petrol bombs and bricks. Officers responded with rubber bullets, but one was reported injured.

While the latest disturbances lasted less than an hour and mark a scaling-down trouble, they take the tally of police injured in the past three days to 40. Their ranks include more than 1,000 officers drawn from forces in the rest of the UK, which was upped from 600 after serious disorder on Friday.

Earlier last night there was a tense stand-off outside the Ardoyne shop fronts, on a stretch of road that is contested between loyalist and nationalist areas. More than 100 loyalists, including members of the Orange Order, eventually stood down peacefully.

Yesterday Belfast Magistrates’ Court held a special sitting to deal with anyone arrested during the troubles, and police said they expected the number taken into custody to be much higher than the current 35 after they review video footage.

Earlier, Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister David Ford warned against those thinking of taking part, saying: “My message is clear; do not get involved in rioting on our streets, but if you choose to do so then be prepared to face the courts within hours.

"To young people in particular I would say this: 'Do you want to leave home today with a clean record and by tonight have a criminal record, which could have consequences which will stay with you for the rest of your life?'," he said.

On Friday night 32 police officers were hurt, and MP for North Belfast Nigel Dodds had to be taken to hospital after he was hit on the head with a brick. Seven more officers suffered injuries on Saturday.

The Orange Order originally called for protests after the Parades Commission banned a section of its commemorative walk, which celebrates the victory of William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Senior members of the Order have since joined politicians and police chiefs in asking for calm.