Belfast Telegraph

Surge in Belfast violence blamed on resurgent UVF

A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A burned out car during disturbances which erupted in east Belfast
Police on patrol during disturbances which erupted in east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
PSNI in Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
PSNI officers in Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Sunday 6th January 2013 - A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast this evening following a loyalist protest. A campaign of street demonstrations has been ongoing since Belfast City Council took a vote on 3 December which limited the number of days the union flag is flown at Belfast City Hall. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Sunday 6th January 2013 - A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast this evening following a loyalist protest.A campaign of street demonstrations has been ongoing since Belfast City Council took a vote on 3 December which limited the number of days the union flag is flown at Belfast City Hall.Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
Loyalist protesters on their way to Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protesters block of the Newtownards Road Belfast where shots are reported to have been fired on Saturday January 5 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast City Hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast City Hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast City Hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast City Hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist Protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013. Ongoing protests and demonstrations continue at the removal of the Union flag from the city hall. The protest was largley peacfull with only minor skermishes.Picture Mark McCormick.
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards after a Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Willie Frazer at loyalist protests near Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Willie Frazer talks to Sara Girvin as loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
SNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall.
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards t
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards road, Belfast January 5 2013
Castlereagh Street area of east Belfast following loyalist rioting January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
A burning barricade on the Newtownards road area of Belfast, where police have been targeted by rioters
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Carrickfergus flag protest. January 2, 2013
Carrickfergus Flag Protest, January 2 2013.
Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been protesting since councillors in Belfast voted to limit the number of days they fly the Union flag
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Jackie McDonald has warned that loyalist protests cannot succeed in having the Union flag reinstated above Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalists block the Sandy Row area of Belfast as part of a mass protest over flags
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt and First Minister Peter Robinson were among those holding talks about the Union flag dispute in Belfast
Loyalists protesting around the village area in south Belfast December 17 2012
Loyalists protesting, blocking traffic in Derry
Loyalists protesting, blocking traffic in Derry
Loyalists protesting, blocking traffic in Derry
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalists taking part in a protest over the restrictions of flying the Union flag protesting outside Belfast City Hall
Up to 1,000 people took part in the cross community Peace Gathering in Belfast city centre
Loyalists in Belfast have been protesting against a decision to reduce the number of days the Union flag will fly from City Hall
Protest outside the Alliance Party office in East Belfast belonging to Naomi Long, following the decision by Belfast City Council to stop flying the union flag every day. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 4, 2012. See PA story ULSTER Flag. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a flag protest
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Police in Carrick come under attack from protestors following a fire at the Alliance party office
Police in Carrick come under attack from protestors following a fire at the Alliance party office
Aftermath of riots in Carrickfergus. Photograph by Mark Winter
Aftermath of riots in Carrickfergus. Photograph by Mark Winter
Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest
Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest
Loyalist protestors carrying Union flags clash with police outside the City Hall in Belfast
Loyalist protestors carrying Union flags clash with police outside the City Hall in Belfast
Loyalist protestors carrying Union flags clash with police outside the City Hall in Belfast
Loyalist protestors carrying Union flags clash with police outside the City Hall in Belfast
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall

By David McKittrick

Police in Northern Ireland have blamed the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) for an escalation in loyalist street violence following a lull over Christmas.

Three nights of localised but sustained rioting have taken place in inner east Belfast, with reports of a gunman firing shots at officers and the use of dozens of petrol bombs, as well as bricks and bottles.

Unionist politicians are to meet this week in the hope of shaping a response that might bring the disruption to a halt, but all pleas to end the unrest have so far fallen on deaf ears.

Last night, a man in his 30s was being questioned by police on suspicion of attempted murder after shots were fired on Saturday night.

More than a dozen other people appeared at special court sittings yesterday, charged with offences including riotous behaviour. Some were taken into custody. Police said individuals involved in the riots on Saturday night, which broke out after up to 1,000 loyalists demonstrated at Belfast City Hall, also aimed laser beams at officers and a police helicopter.

The riots have been accompanied by a new wave of non-violent but disruptive demonstrations in and around the city in protest against limitations on the display of the Union Flag at Belfast City Hall.

Churchmen and community leaders are involved in talks with loyalists in an attempt to defuse a dispute that has lasted more than a month and resulted in injuries to more than 60 police officers.

Northern Ireland's First Minister, Peter Robinson, said those involved were playing into the hands of republican dissidents. "The violence and destruction visited on the police is a disgrace, criminally wrong and cannot be justified," he said.

The disruption has caused major damage to community relations, economic activity and the image of a region that has been seeking to attract investment and tourism, and the suggestion of UVF involvement will be a further cause for alarm.

Terry Spence, the chairman of the Police Federation, described the appearance of gunfire as a very sinister development that was orchestrated by the UVF. "Paramilitaries have hijacked this flags protest issue and they have turned now their guns on the police," he said. "They are exploiting this."

Up to now, the protesters have had little coherent leadership. Blaming police for clashes, prominent activist Jamie Bryson said on his Facebook page: "The fact that a large number of these officers are now Roman Catholics provides some explanation as to their bloodlust."

But Mr Spence said: "I totally reject his comments. They are clearly sectarian and beneath contempt. Our officers are holding the line between anarchy and peace on our streets."

Glyn Roberts, of Northern Ireland's independent traders' association, said: "I would appeal to the people organising these riots to stop and consider the damage they are doing, not just to their own local community and their own local traders but to the reputation of Northern Ireland throughout the world.

"We've international TV crews here covering this, beaming those pictures of riots across the world. That's doing immense damage to Northern Ireland's reputation at a time where we're desperate to get foreign, direct investment."

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