Northern Ireland has recently experienced an upsurge in violent disorder. This has stemmed from a decision by the authorities to restrict the flying of the Union flag on Belfast City Hall.
Northern Ireland remains a country very much divided by old hatreds and religious differences. When councillors in Belfast, Northern Ireland, voted to change their long-standing flag policy, on December 3, old feelings of hate resurfaced. The change would mean that the Union flag, widely recognised as the flag of Great Britain, would only fly on Belfast City Hall on designated days, rather than constantly 24/7.
Protests followed, initially peaceful ones, but inevitably events turned sour. The Union flag is significant to loyalists in Northern Ireland and for them is a link to England. The protests have continued and last night they turned nasty once again.
Protesters clashed with police long into Friday night, resulting in injuries and street damage. According to the Telegraph nine police officers were injured, leading to 18 arrests. The footage showed a high proportion of the protesters were young men and women.
According to police officers on duty at the protests around 300 people took part in an attack. They claim that around 30 petrol bombs, along with ball bearings, fireworks and bricks, were launched in what became a "sustained" attack. The nine officers, including one woman, who were injured did not receive serious injuries.
Northern Ireland's First Minister, Peter Robinson, condemned the protesters and those who are instigating the attacks. On Thursday night ten officers received injuries. Mr Robinson according to the Telegraph said,
"The violence and destruction visited on the PSNI is a disgrace, criminally wrong and cannot be justified.
"Those responsible are doing a grave disservice to the cause they claim to espouse and are playing into the hands of those dissident groups who would seek to exploit every opportunity to further their terror aims."
Today fresh protests have caused further problems. Early today up to 1,000 loyalists protested outside of Belfast City Hall. Many were draped in the Union flag and the majority were carrying the flag.
The BBC have reported that police are investigating claims that shots were fired, and a 38-year-old man has been arrested, on suspicion of attempted murder.
Police used water cannons in response to a barrage of missiles such as bricks, bottles, fireworks and smoke canisters, which allegedly 100 or so loyalist protesters launched at them.
The BBC report claimed To date, more than 40 police officers have been hurt, several politicians have received death threats and homes and property have been damaged.