News24

No rest for N Ireland cops

2010-07-15 08:49

London - Nationalist rioters in Northern Ireland threw petrol bombs at police, who responded by firing rubber bullets, in a fourth night of unrest during the province's marching season, a report said on Thursday.

Trouble flared late on Wednesday at a flashpoint in north Belfast, the BBC said, after riots on three previous nights injured 82 police officers and drew appeals for restraint from the province's leaders.

Petrol bombs were thrown in the Ardoyne area, which is populated mainly by Catholics, and a car was set alight, prompting police to shoot rounds of rubber bullets and deploy a water cannon.

But a smaller number of rioters were involved than on previous nights, according to the broadcaster.

The disturbances come at the height of Northern Ireland's marching season, a traditional flashpoint for sectarian violence in the troubled province.

1998 peace accords

Unrest often flares as Protestant marchers - in favour of continued British rule of the province - pass through areas mainly populated by Catholics, who are generally opposed to rule from London.

Authorities are blaming a small group of troublemakers for the violence, with Northern Ireland police chief Matt Baggott describing trouble earlier this week as "recreational rioting with a sinister edge".

In the most violent riots of the past few days on Monday, dissident republicans threw petrol bombs and concrete slabs at Protestant Orangemen and their police escort as they marched through Ardoyne.

Monday was July 12, which is the climax of the marching calendar and sees Protestants mark Prince William of Orange's victory over the Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Despite the relative calm in Northern Ireland since the 1998 peace accords, violence frequently breaks out around July 12 as Catholics try to prevent the marches from going ahead.