Loyalists petrol bomb police car
Published 10/12/2012 | 19:04
Loyalists have tried to kill a police officer after they set fire to his patrol car in Belfast.
A gang of 15 men tossed a petrol bomb into the unmarked vehicle after surrounding and smashing it outside the offices of Alliance Party MP Naomi Long. It was the worst incident in another night of sporadic violence in parts of east and south Belfast involving loyalists who took to the streets again in protest against a decision by Belfast City Council to restrict the flying of the union flag at Belfast City Hall.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said the officer was lucky to escape with his life outside the MP's office on the Newtownards Road. They were treating the attack as attempted murder. Officers were also attacked with petrol bombs in south Belfast close to the M1 motorway.
He said: "This was a planned attempt to kill a police officer which also put the lives of the public in danger and it is fortunate there were no injuries."
Peter Robinson, the Northern Ireland First Minister and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party had talks in Belfast with Mike Nesbitt, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party to try to agree some sort of agreed political strategy in a bid to ease tensions and end the violence on the streets. They have been heavily criticised by nationalist representatives over their leadership since the trouble first flared a week ago.
The trouble followed a council decision to limit the flying of the Union flag to designated days only. Ms Long's Alliance Party has been blamed by the loyalists for supporting the nationalist SDLP and Sinn Fein in pushing through the vote to lower the flag.
There were also protests in Limavady, Co Londonderry, Ballyclare, Co Antrim, Ballycastle, Co Antrim and Cookstown, Co Tyrone where the car of a DUP member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Ian McCrea, was surrounded by angry loyalist who were angry at his presence.
Several roads in Belfast were blocked and at one stage police were also attacked with petrol bombs and fireworks at Broadway, not far from the M1 motorway.
Meanwhile in Armagh city, Sinn Fein accused masked loyalists of attacking a bar, the Cuchulainn, after staging an impromptu march with no police presence. They claimed windows were smashed and fireworks thrown. A statement said: "The protests, intimidation and violence needs to end and unionist politicians need to be to the fore using whatever influence they have in ensuring this happens."
PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott said the some of the violence was intense and there was clearly some paramilitary involvement. It was fortunate someone was not seriously injured, he claimed, adding that the situation in some areas was very tense. He said: "There has to be a collective voice to bring this to an end."