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East Belfast following a protest at Belfast City Hall

East Belfast following a protest at Belfast City Hall

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

A woman wheels her son through police lines on East Bridge Street as the protest makes its way back to east Belfast 12/01/13

A woman wheels her son through police lines on East Bridge Street as the protest makes its way back to east Belfast 12/01/13

Loyalist protesters pictured on Woodstock Link in east Belfast

Loyalist protesters pictured on Woodstock Link in east Belfast

Police and protesters pictured on the Donegall Road end of Shaftsbury Square in Belfast City Centre

Police and protesters pictured on the Donegall Road end of Shaftsbury Square in Belfast City Centre

Police pictured on the Lower Newtownards Road.

Police pictured on the Lower Newtownards Road.

Loyalist protesters and police pictured on the Lower Newtownards Road

Loyalist protesters and police pictured on the Lower Newtownards Road

Loyalist protesters and police pictured on the Lower Newtownards Road

Loyalist protesters and police pictured on the Lower Newtownards Road

Police pictured on the Lower Newtownards Road

Police pictured on the Lower Newtownards Road

Loyalist protesters pictured on Woodstock Link in east Belfast.

Loyalist protesters pictured on Woodstock Link in east Belfast.

Loyalist protesters pictured on Woodstock Link in east Belfast

Loyalist protesters pictured on Woodstock Link in east Belfast

Holly Reynolds, aged four, joins peace protesters at Belfast City Hall

Holly Reynolds, aged four, joins peace protesters at Belfast City Hall

A peace protester at Belfast City Hall

A peace protester at Belfast City Hall

Loyalists react after being attacked by nationalists throwing stones from the nationalist Short Strand area of Belfast

Loyalists react after being attacked by nationalists throwing stones from the nationalist Short Strand area of Belfast

Loyalists attack the police as the protesters make their way back to east Belfast past the nationalist Short Strand

Loyalists attack the police as the protesters make their way back to east Belfast past the nationalist Short Strand

Riot police stand next to a burned out car after loyalist protesters attacked police lines in east Belfast

Riot police stand next to a burned out car after loyalist protesters attacked police lines in east Belfast

Loyalists clash with PSNI officers on the Newtownards road in east Belfast this afternoon.

Loyalists clash with PSNI officers on the Newtownards road in east Belfast this afternoon.

Loyalists react after being attacked by nationalists throwing stones from the nationalist Short Strand area of Belfast

Loyalists react after being attacked by nationalists throwing stones from the nationalist Short Strand area of Belfast

Loyalists clash with PSNI officers on the Newtownards road in east Belfast this afternoon.

Loyalists clash with PSNI officers on the Newtownards road in east Belfast this afternoon.

A police officer is injured after loyalist protesters attacked police lines at the Albertbridge Road near the nationalist Short Strand area of Belfast

A police officer is injured after loyalist protesters attacked police lines at the Albertbridge Road near the nationalist Short Strand area of Belfast

Loyalists clash with PSNI officers on the Newtownards road in east Belfast this afternoon.

Loyalists clash with PSNI officers on the Newtownards road in east Belfast this afternoon.

The Union flag demonstration at Belfast City Hall today.

The Union flag demonstration at Belfast City Hall today.

The Union flag demonstration at Belfast City Hall today.

The Union flag demonstration at Belfast City Hall today.

A PSNI officer is treated after being injured following rioting which occurred after Saturday's Union flag protest in Belfast city centre.

A PSNI officer is treated after being injured following rioting which occurred after Saturday's Union flag protest in Belfast city centre.

A PSNI officer is treated after being injured following rioting which occurred after Saturday's Union flag protest in Belfast city centre.

A PSNI officer is treated after being injured following rioting which occurred after Saturday's Union flag protest in Belfast city centre.

A PSNI officer is treated after being injured following rioting which occurred after Saturday's Union flag protest in Belfast city centre.

A PSNI officer is treated after being injured following rioting which occurred after Saturday's Union flag protest in Belfast city centre.

Loyalists protesters march through Belfast city centre

Loyalists protesters march through Belfast city centre

Rangers fans show their support to the Union flag protesters in Belfast during the Irn Bru Scottish Third Division match at Ibrox, Glasgow.

Rangers fans show their support to the Union flag protesters in Belfast during the Irn Bru Scottish Third Division match at Ibrox, Glasgow.

Lynne Cameron

Loyalists protesters march through Belfast city centre

Loyalists protesters march through Belfast city centre

Willie Frazer pictured at Belfast City Hall.

Willie Frazer pictured at Belfast City Hall.

A peace protester pictured at Belfast City Hall before the loyalist protest arrived.

A peace protester pictured at Belfast City Hall before the loyalist protest arrived.

A PSNI officer is injured during rioting in the Newtownards Road area of east Belfast on Saturday afternoon as a loyalist flag parade returned from Belfast City Hall.

A PSNI officer is injured during rioting in the Newtownards Road area of east Belfast on Saturday afternoon as a loyalist flag parade returned from Belfast City Hall.

Loyalist leader Billy Hutchinson on the Newtownards Road on Saturday afternoon

Loyalist leader Billy Hutchinson on the Newtownards Road on Saturday afternoon

A loyalist pictured in east Belfast after Saturday's flag protest at City Hall

A loyalist pictured in east Belfast after Saturday's flag protest at City Hall

A loyalist protester at Belfast City Hall during Saturday's flag protest

A loyalist protester at Belfast City Hall during Saturday's flag protest

A loyalist pictured in east Belfast after Saturday's flag protest at City Hall

A loyalist pictured in east Belfast after Saturday's flag protest at City Hall

A loyalist woman wheels a child through police lines on East Bridge Street as the protest makes its way back to east Belfast.

A loyalist woman wheels a child through police lines on East Bridge Street as the protest makes its way back to east Belfast.

Loyalists attack police at the bottom of Castlereagh Street.

Loyalists attack police at the bottom of Castlereagh Street.

PSNI officers pictured at the bottom of Castlereagh Street.

PSNI officers pictured at the bottom of Castlereagh Street.

Loyalists protesters pictured at Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon.

Loyalists protesters pictured at Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon.

A injured police man is helped by a colleague after trouble broke out following Saturday's Union flag protest.

A injured police man is helped by a colleague after trouble broke out following Saturday's Union flag protest.

Loyalist youths confront police at the bottom of Castlereagh Street.

Loyalist youths confront police at the bottom of Castlereagh Street.

Loyalists protesters pictured at Belfast City Hall.

Loyalists protesters pictured at Belfast City Hall.

Loyalists protesters pictured at Belfast City Hall.

Loyalists protesters pictured at Belfast City Hall.

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Saturday's Union flag protest at Belfast City Hall.

Saturday's Union flag protest at Belfast City Hall.

Loyalist protesters make their way through the city centre to east Belfast.

Loyalist protesters make their way through the city centre to east Belfast.

Loyalists attack the police as the protesters make their way back to east Belfast past the nationalist Short Strand

Loyalists attack the police as the protesters make their way back to east Belfast past the nationalist Short Strand

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Loyalists carry out a protest in  Great Victoria Street, Belfast last night

Loyalists carry out a protest in Great Victoria Street, Belfast last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Loyalists carryi out a protest on Great Victoria Street, Belfast last night

Loyalists carryi out a protest on Great Victoria Street, Belfast last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Loyalists carry out a protest in the Sandy Row are of south Belfast last night

Loyalists carry out a protest in the Sandy Row are of south Belfast last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Loyalists carryi out a protest on Great Victoria Street, Belfast last night

Loyalists carryi out a protest on Great Victoria Street, Belfast last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Loyalists carry out a protest in the Sandy Row are of south Belfast last night

Loyalists carry out a protest in the Sandy Row are of south Belfast last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Loyalists carry out a protest in the Sandy Row area of south Belfast last night

Loyalists carry out a protest in the Sandy Row area of south Belfast last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th January 2013 -  General view of Loyalists carrying out a protest in the Sandy Row are of south Belfast this evening.Loyalists have been protesting across Northern Ireland after Belfast City Council restricted the number of days the Union Flag can fly over Belfast City Hall.Picture by Kelvin Byes / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th January 2013 - General view of Loyalists carrying out a protest in the Sandy Row are of south Belfast this evening.Loyalists have been protesting across Northern Ireland after Belfast City Council restricted the number of days the Union Flag can fly over Belfast City Hall.Picture by Kelvin Byes / Press Eye.

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Nick Williams goes over to score for Ulster, tackled by Glasgow's Josh Strauss

Nick Williams goes over to score for Ulster, tackled by Glasgow's Josh Strauss

Darren Kidd

Ulster's Nick Williams celebrates scoring his try

Ulster's Nick Williams celebrates scoring his try

©INPHO/Presseye/Darren Kidd

Ulster's Jared Payne celebrates scoring a late try with Paul Marshall

Ulster's Jared Payne celebrates scoring a late try with Paul Marshall

©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Jared Payne scores for Ulster

Jared Payne scores for Ulster

Darren Kidd

Ulster's Craig Gilroy  is tackled by Glasgow's Tom Ryder and Duncan Weir

Ulster's Craig Gilroy is tackled by Glasgow's Tom Ryder and Duncan Weir

Darren Kidd

Ulster's Tom Court celebrates after the game

Ulster's Tom Court celebrates after the game

©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Loyalists carry out a protest in the Sandy Row area of south Belfast last night

Loyalists carry out a protest in the Sandy Row area of south Belfast last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th January 2013 -  General view of disturbances in O'Neills Road Newtownabbey this evening.Loyalists have been protesting across Northern Ireland after Belfast City Council restricted the number of days the Union Flag can fly over Belfast City Hall.Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th January 2013 - General view of disturbances in O'Neills Road Newtownabbey this evening.Loyalists have been protesting across Northern Ireland after Belfast City Council restricted the number of days the Union Flag can fly over Belfast City Hall.Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th January 2013 -  General view of disturbances in O'Neills Road Newtownabbey this evening.Loyalists have been protesting across Northern Ireland after Belfast City Council restricted the number of days the Union Flag can fly over Belfast City Hall.Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th January 2013 - General view of disturbances in O'Neills Road Newtownabbey this evening.Loyalists have been protesting across Northern Ireland after Belfast City Council restricted the number of days the Union Flag can fly over Belfast City Hall.Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

General view of disturbances in O'Neill's Road, Newtownabbey last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Loyalists carryi out a protest on Great Victoria Street, Belfast last night

Loyalists carryi out a protest on Great Victoria Street, Belfast last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Loyalists carry out a protest in the Sandy Row area of south Belfast last night

Loyalists carry out a protest in the Sandy Row area of south Belfast last night

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

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East Belfast following a protest at Belfast City Hall

A driver was injured when rioting loyalists hijacked two buses as violence returned to the streets of east Belfast.

Police were attacked with stones and bottles last night and petrol bombs were thrown at houses and a church in the neighbouring Catholic Short Strand district where people attending a special needs meeting fled in terror.

The bus driver was believed to have been hurt by flying glass when a brick was thrown through his window in the lower Newtownards Road area.

He was taken to hospital for treatment for cuts to his face, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said.

Police used water cannon to help restore order, and one officer was injured.

A 17-year-old boy was arrested, and two men aged 70 and 26 were detained in a separate incident connected to disorder which followed a flag protest in the Great Victoria Street area.

Bomb disposal experts also carried out a controlled explosion on a suspicious object in Bradley Way, Strabane.

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Trouble in Belfast flared just hours after the Chief Constable Matt Baggott and politicians on all sides appealed for calm. Business leaders also warned of the disastrous impact on trade.

A number of roads were blocked for a time yesterday. Some motorists held up in long tailbacks complained that police failed to take tougher action to clear masked demonstrators waving flags.

Bus services in the east of the city were also suspended immediately after the hijackings and just before loyalists attacked houses and St Matthews Catholic Church in the Short Strand.

Nobody was hurt, but neighbours claimed frightened people attending a special needs meeting in an adjoining parochial hall had to run for cover.

A major conference of teachers planned for the city next November has been cancelled because of the continuing disorder - now in its seventh week - in protest at a decision to restrict the flying of the Union flag above City Hall.

Conall McDevitt, an SDLP member of the Northern Ireland Assembly and city councillor who voted for the flag to be lowered, said it was an unprovoked and unjustifiable attack on people's homes and a place of worship, and there could be no explanation for such depraved acts of violence.

He said: "This behaviour is as sickening now as it was when it first started - and more so, because the perpetrators know that they have no legitimacy and waning support.

"This is not a cause - this is simply the worst depths of human nature run amok."

Earlier yesterday senior police and politicians united in their demands for an end to the violent protests.

The First Minister Peter Robinson branded rioters the enemies of democracy and claimed they were being exploited by elements seeking to wreck the peace process.

"You do not respect a Union flag if you are using it as a weapon to charge against someone," he said.

"You are not showing respect for the Union flag if you need to wear a mask when carrying it.

"For many the issue of the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Council is now a cynical cover for the real political agenda which is to destroy the political process."

Civil unrest has erupted in parts of Northern Ireland since Belfast City councillors voted on December 3 to restrict the number of days the Union flag would be flown over City Hall.

To date 101 police officers have been injured, one of whom is still in hospital.

There have been 112 arrests and 85 people, including a number of children, have been charged with public order offences.

The bill for policing the riots has already exceeded £7 million.

Mr Baggott has called for politicians to act quickly to resolve the crisis.

He revealed his commanders on the ground were revising their tactics, but said sweeping protesters off the streets was not a realistic option.

He said: "Even when the PSNI was 12,000 strong it would not have been possible to take such a rigid approach towards protests. Our approach has always been to be measured and responsible.

"We have simply to put public safety first."


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