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Petrol bombs thrown in east Belfast

Police deal with disorder in the Newtownards Road for the sixth night running.

Police have come under attack for the sixth consecutive night in east Belfast.

Tuesday, 08 January 2013
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Petrol bombs, fireworks, bricks and other missiles were thrown at police lines by loyalist rioters on the Lower Newtownards Road on Tuesday night.

Police say calm has now been restored and they continue to maintain a presence in area.

The disorder, which erupted before 8pm after a number of flag protests were held, was not on the same scale as that of the past five nights.

The Newtownards Road, Templemore Avenue, Castlereagh Street and Beersbridge Road have reopened to traffic.

Glenmachan Street has also re-opened following an earlier protest.

Last month Belfast City Council passed a motion to restrict the flying of the Union Flag at City Hall.

It has been followed by weeks of protests and rioting in which more than 60 police officers were injured.

Community worker Jim Wilson from east Belfast said he met with the PSNI, after allegations of police heavy-handedness.

"If the PSNI act responsibly, then there is a chance of the next night it (the violence) being less, and the next night being less."

On Monday night, trouble erupted after a crowd of around 70 nationalist youths from the Short Strand area hurled missiles at the protestors returning from a City Hall demonstration, some of whom chanted sectarian abuse.

Joe O'Donnell, from the Belfast Interface Project, said representatives are still working hard to mend community relations in east Belfast.

"We still have to pick up the pieces," he said.

"I am very confident that given the time, given the space that we can move this forward."

One former loyalist rioter told UTV Live Tonight that those involved in violence are angry at the police.

In their mindset, in some ways, their only way of taking their frustration out is attacking the police.

Former rioter

"The riots do get out of hand, and they do develop from protests, but the police do not help matters," he added.

He said he now tries to dissuade young people from the disorder.

"You can be proud of where you're from, celebrate your history and culture without attacking the police."

Earlier on Tuesday, First Minister Peter Robinson said that the ongoing disorder was "very damaging" to Northern Ireland's reputation around the world.

"We've worked for a very long period of time to overcome the image of Northern Ireland as a place where there is violence and instability," the DUP leader told UTV.

"Already we have had investors, both people who have invested and people who were about to invest asking questions, and we are having to give reassurances to them," he said.

"It's bad for our image, it is bad for our opportunities to bring jobs to Northern Ireland, and that ultimately means that it is bad for ordinary people on the ground who will not have the opportunity to work in those jobs that could have been created."

The first meeting of the unionist taskforce created by Mr Robinson and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt in response to the ongoing flag violence will take place at Stormont on Thursday morning.

In a statement, Mr Robinson and Mr Nesbitt said the Unionist Forum will "seek to engage with the entire unionist community and address issues of concern".

The Union Flag is next due to fly at Belfast City Hall on Wednesday to mark the Duchess of Cambridge's birthday - the first of 18 annual designated days.