|Belfast explodes again, amid death threats
Police officers in Northern Ireland fired plastic bullets and used water cannon after coming under attack from rioters for a fifth consecutive night yesterday.
Intermittent disorder has blighted Belfast since the city council's decision on December 3 to limit the number of days it flies the British flag, or union flag, atop the City Hall, AFP reports. The flag will be flown only on 17 days.
About 1,000 loyalist protesters held a peaceful demonstration outside City Hall yesterday as councilors held their first meeting since last month's decision.
But trouble erupted as a group of 250 arrived at a known boundary between loyalist and republican neighborhoods after leaving the City Hall protest. Police battled to keep the two groups apart, firing plastic bullets and using water cannon after coming under fire from a hail of masonry and petrol bombs on the city's Newtownards Road.
Northern Ireland police earlier accused the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force of orchestrating the violence.
Loyalists believe last month's ruling to fly the flag on certain designated days was a concession too far to republicans who want Northern Ireland to be part of Ireland.
The first of these days will be tomorrow to mark the birthday of the Duchess of Cambridge.
Elected representatives from political parties on both sides have received death threats, the latest being SDLP Assembly member Patsy McGlone.
Nationalist party Sinn Fein's Jim McVeigh said politicians “won't be intimidated by those threats’’.
The flag vote has raised tensions in the province, which was torn apart by three decades of sectarian violence until peace accords in 1998 led to the creation of a power-sharing government between Protestants and Catholics.