Four officers injured as petrol bombs, masonry and other missiles are thrown in latest unrest over flying of union flag
Loyalist violence over the union flag controversy spread out of Belfast on Friday night to Carrickfergus with four police officers injured in a riot.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) riot squad officers fired five plastic bullets in response to 30 petrol bombs thrown by rioters.
A crowd of over 100 loyalists hurled missiles at police in Carrickfergus while fireworks, petrol bombs and rocks were used in the O’Neill’s Road area of Newtownabbey. One of the injured police officers required hospital treatment. At least two arrests were made in another night of trouble despite calls from unionist politicans for an end to violent protests.
A PSNI spokesman said police “will continue to pursue a vigorous evidence gathering operation to bring those involved in the violence to justice”.
A bus was set alight near the Rathcoole estate in Newtownabbey but Belfast was reported to be relatively calm compared to last week when the east of the city was rocked by six consecutive days of disorder.
Earlier loyalist protests brought traffic to standstill across greater Belfast as they blocked main roads into the city. Among those affected by the disruption were thousands of rugby union fans attending Ulster’s clash with Glasgow at Ravenhill.
But the city centre was not as empty as might have been expected after an online campaign urged people to defy the protests and stage “sit-ins” in cafes, pubs and restaurants to give businesses hit by the six-week campaign of street action a much-needed boost to trade.
Earlier on Friday, one of Northern Ireland’s most senior Protestant ministers called on loyalists to end “intolerable” attacks on police.
Presbyterian Moderator Dr Roy Patton said: “The situation being faced by the police is intolerable and in keeping order on our streets and bringing people before the courts the PSNI must have the full support of all who want to see an end to this violence.”
Another rally is planned for Saturday with loyalists gathering outside Belfast city hall where the union flag will now only be flown on 17 designated days after the council voted to abandon its policy of flying the flag 365 days a year.