Violence flares again in flag row

Loyalist protesters converged on Belfast City Hall but the demonstration passed off peacefully

Protests by loyalists have been frequent in Belfast since the decision to only fly the Union flag from the City Hall on certain days

First published in National News © by

Fresh violence has flared in Northern Ireland as loyalists protest over the flying of the Union flag.

More than 1,000 demonstrators marched on Belfast's City Hall earlier on Saturday, but despite tense scenes the rally passed off without major incident.

There was a heavy police presence, including officers in riot gear with dogs, stationed within city hall itself and on surrounding side streets.

But as the flag-waving crowds dispersed, ugly scenes erupted on the Newtownards Road in the traditionally unionist east of the city.

Police again came under attack from a missile-throwing mob of up to 100 loyalists, who hurled masonry and fireworks at officers.

The PSNI said they are also investigating reports that a number of shots had been fired at police lines on the Newtownards Road. A 38-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

A section of the Newtownards Road - between Bridgend and Hollywood Arches - was shut down because of the sporadic disorder. There were no immediate reports of any police injuries.

Loyalist violence on Friday night saw 18 people arrested and nine police officers injured. More than 30 petrol bombs, along with fireworks, ball bearings and masonry, were hurled at officers during a sustained attack in the east of the city. Up to 300 people were involved in the disturbances.

None of the police injuries are life threatening, however one female officer required medical treatment at the scene.

Three attempted vehicle hijackings were made in the Beersbridge Road area while a business premises on the O'Neill Road was broken into, damaged and money stolen from it.

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