Sinn Fein south Belfast MLA Alex Maskey and the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Niall O Donnghaile have blamed loyalists for the “unprovoked riots” and attacks on nationalists in the Short Strand.
But members of the loyalist community have hit back and told the Community Telegraph that on Saturday night (June 18) a small girl was hit in the face with a brick thrown from the nationalist side of the interface.
Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey said the UVF launched a coordinated attack on the Short Strand and added that nationalist residents had stayed within their own areas.
Belfast mayor Niall O Donnghaile, a councillor based in the Short Strand area, said a number of nationalist residents had been injured in the rioting, including one man knocked unconscious when he was hit on the head with a brick.
David McConnell of the Exit group, an east Belfast community group, said: “On Saturday night a young girl from the Newtownards Road was hit with a brick that came over the interface from the nationalist community.
“Residents from Duke Street and Susan Street, including women came out and stood on the road and a group of 20 men from the Short Strand appeared — they started a riot and women were attacked.
“It’s just came to a head now, it’s been building up and building up and people haven’t been listened to.”
He said community workers were trying to quell the tension.
South Belfast SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt called for calm after witnessing Monday night’s rioting.
He said: “It was exceptionally serious and I undoubtedly witnessed orchestrated violence. The PSNI response was slow despite the fact that there had been a previous night’s rioting the night before.
“Pensioner bungalows and St Matthews were in the frontline and under sustained attack from several hundred rioters.
“This provoked retaliation from the other side of the interface which led to an exceptionally dangerous and violent situation.
“However, there’s a duty on everybody in the community, political and faith leadership roles to step back from the brink and work together to assure that this situation is defused and doesn’t escalate any further.”
A police spokesperson said that on Tuesday night police had been attacked with petrol bombs, paint bombs, laser pens and masonry and it's understood that approximately 300-400 individuals were involved in the disorder and, as on Monday night, shots were fired.
“A press photographer sustained a gunshot injury to his right leg and was taken to hospital for treatment to his injuries where he remains in a stable condition,” the spokesperson said.
The police fired 66 plastic bullets over the course of the disturbances and deployed both their helicopters during the disorder.
“A 20-year-old female was arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon and assault on police. Police would appeal to anyone with any information to contact police on 0845 600 8000,” added the spokesperson.