A number of baton rounds were fired by police last night as serious violence flared at a notorious interface in north Belfast.
A policewoman was injured and had to be rushed to hospital after she was struck by a number of missiles. Rioters kept attacking the officer as PSNI colleagues and ambulance crew tended to her. The officer’s condition was last night unknown.
Police and Orangemen came under attack as a contentious July 12 parade was escorted by riot police past the Ardoyne shops.
Petrol bombs, bricks, bottles and other missiles were thrown at officers and marchers as the Orangemen walked along the controversial route.
A blast bomb was also thrown but it failed to explode.
At least two baton rounds were fired by officers at a number of masked males who had gathered on the roof of commercial premises from where they threw petrol bombs and bricks. Water cannons were deployed.
Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said a number of police officers were injured during the violence.
He said: “Tonight my officers, who were out risking their lives to protect the community, came under sustained attack in the Ardoyne area from bricks, bottles and petrol bombs. There was also a blast bomb thrown.
“Due to the level of violence officers faced from a crowd, a number of AEPs were fired, and the water cannons were deployed. A number of officers have been injured during the serious disorder.
“Northern Ireland cannot afford to have violent images beamed across the world every summer — images which are totally unrepresentative of the vast majority of people who have embraced a peaceful and vibrant future.”
The ACC added: “Police will carry out a rigorous investigation in relation to all the recent incidents, which will include the examination of CCTV footage, and will work towards bringing all those found breaking the law to justice.”
Earlier Orangemen were forced to wait for around 90 minutes before they were able to march down the road after around 60 demonstrators blocked their route with a sit-down protest.
The protesters, from the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC), had to be removed from the road by officers in riot gear.
Police asked the protesters four times to move from the road and warned them that if they did not comply then force would be used.
At least three protesters, one believed to be organiser Martin og Meehan, were arrested and placed in the back of a prison van.
Several hundred officers in riot gear and at least 60 police Land Rovers were in the area as tensions reached boiling point just before the parade was due to pass.
As the incident unfolded a large crowd of loyalists gathered further up the road in a predominantly unionist neighbourhood to await the Orangemen, who were returning from the main Belfast Twelfth commemoration.
Holy Cross Parish Priest Fr Gary Donegan, who was in the area throughout the evening, said: “It is so very sad that we are still here after all these years.”
SDLP north Belfast councillor Nichola Mallon said the night’s violence had been organised by dissidents.
“It is clear that dissidents want to push residents into the front line of their own little war, but the people of this area are very clear that their objections to the parade have absolutely nothing to do with the political agenda of the petrolbombers.”
The heavy security presence was slightly scaled back after the parade passed, however a number of officers remained in the area overnight.