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Northern Ireland peace process is at risk, claims Martin McGuinness

MARTIN McGuinness has claimed that the Northern Ireland peace process is at risk after a Loyalist parade led to an outbreak of rioting in Belfast.

The Deputy First Minister blamed the Orange Order for disturbances which resulted in serious violence and left dozens of police officers injured after they came under attack with rocks and other weapons.

Members of the Royal Black Institution have now apologised to the congregation of a Catholic Church in north Belfast where band members ignored a ruling not to play provocative music during a march.

Protests by the nationalist community about the band's behaviour were met with retaliation from Loyalist mobs, resulting in three nights of rioting.

Mr McGuinness claimed that the Orange Order and Unionist politicians had tacitly encouraged Loyalist bands to defy orders from the Parades Commission, which was set up to defuse tensions around the summer marching season.

He described the riots, which police responded to with plastic bullets and water cannon, as a "terrible display of bigotry and sectarianism," adding that if Loyalists did not “abide by the rule of law” they would be “sowing the seeds of future conflict.”

After a warning by Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr that police officers would be killed unless politicians stopped “posturing” and resolved the parades issue, Mr McGuinness and Peter Robinson, the DUP First Minister, took part in talks about the riots.

Said Mr McGuinness: “If these people are not prepared to abide by these determinations [of the Parades Commission], they are sowing the seeds for future conflict in our society.”

Mr Robinson added: “There’s a common desire to see an end to the violence."