70 arrests over flag vote violence

70 arrests over flag vote violence

Seventy people have been arrested - and 52 PSNI officers injured - since trouble broke out in Northern Ireland following the Belfast council vote to only fly the Union Flag outside City Hall on designated days.

Fifty of those detained have since been charged.

On Sunday, following a third night of loyalist rioting in east Belfast, PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott commended the tireless courage of his officers during what he described as a "very difficult" time.

A police statement said that street violence began on Saturday at 2.50pm when officers were confronted by a number of people on the Newtownards Road.

"Police were then attacked by a crowd of over 100 people throwing petrol bombs fireworks, smoke cannisters, bricks and other masonry. Laser pens were also directed at officers' faces. Water cannon were then deployed," the statement continued.

"Later in the afternoon police arrested a 38-year-old man on suspicion of attempted murder after reports that shots had been fired."

The PSNI said the disorder was contained at around 6pm, however, it reignited a short time later at 7.30pm in the Albertbridge, Castlereagh Street and Templemore Avenue areas.

"Three AEP 'baton rounds' were fired during the disturbances and one officer was injured. Seven people were arrested," the statement confirmed.

Reports of cars being set on fire at Templemore Avenue, Albertbridge Road, Newtownards Road and Lord Street were also received by police.

It is understood that cars were hijacked in the Ballymacarret area and on the Newtownards Road. A bus was hijacked in the east of the city.

You may be assured there will be sufficient resources in the event of more disorder for however long is necessary.

PSNI chief Constable Matt Baggott

Mr Baggott said: "The Police Service will continue to do everything possible to maintain law and order and we will deal firmly with outbreaks of violence.

"As you have seen in the last few days we will continue to apprehend and put people before the courts."

Meanwhile, police searches took place at St Patrick's Walk in east Belfast on Sunday.

Elsewhere, community, political and religious leaders met in the afternoon at a church in the area to discuss the latest outbreak of violence.

Michael Copeland, UUP MLA for East Belfast, attended the meeting and said the scale of the trouble was very hard to quantify.

"I've spent a lot of time on the ground. I've seen my constituency yet again subjected to violence, civil disorder.

"I've seen public and private property destroyed and I've seen police officers injured. I've seen civilians injured."

He continued: "I'm not sure the current attempt to stop the violence has actually worked. I think you've got to address the issues that are there below the surface."

Niall Ó Donnghaile, Sinn Féin councillor for the area, said there was "no doubt" violence came from both nationalists and loyalists on Saturday.

However, he added that reports of shots being fired on the loyalist side was "worrying" and had "left people on edge."

"I think given the violence, and the extent of the violence, that we saw yesterday here in east Belfast, people want it to stop and people are calling out for political leadership, particularly from within the Unionist community, to get a grip on things and make this stop."

Meanwhile, Translink announced that public transport services in east Belfast was subject to diversion on Sunday evening due to planned protests.

© UTV

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