Peter Robinson offers to help resolve Belfast trouble

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay: "These are the wrong headlines about Northern Ireland being flashed around the world"

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Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson has said he is prepared to get "directly involved" in attempts to resolve the trouble in his east Belfast constituency.

A photographer was shot during a second night of sectarian violence near the Catholic enclave of Short Strand.

The PSNI confirmed the trouble was orchestrated by the loyalist paramilitary group, the UVF.

Talks have been taking place between community and political leaders.

Mr Robinson told the BBC that if people feel they need to have issues addressed "I will meet them".

He said people were horrified at what had happened and recognised the "reputational damage" it was doing to the economy.

The trouble began at 2045 BST on Tuesday.

Injuries

A barrage of petrol bombs, missiles and fireworks were thrown at police lines for a second night, in what is being reported as the worst trouble in the area for a decade.

Two other men were injured. They are believed to have suffered burn injuries.

Police fired 66 plastic bullets during the disturbances.

A 20-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of possessing an offensive weapon and assaulting police.

Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said they believed the east Belfast Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) were involved.

Analysis

Historically at this time of year there have been street clashes where Catholic areas meet Protestant districts.

But that has been in the past and violence has been relatively rare on the streets since the Good Friday Agreement 13 years ago. So this has sprung up as something of a surprise.

It's a part of east Belfast which historically has had a problem between a small number of Catholics and Protestants.

There have been a number of small-scale sectarian incidents in recent months.

There is a presence in the area of a faction of the pro-British loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force, a paramilitary organisation which signed up to the peace process but is becoming disillusioned.

They are flexing their muscle and, if you put those factors together, you begin to understand what is happening.

"Whether they have lost the influence to stop it, I don't know, but there certainly seems to be nothing to suggest that our position has changed, that the bulk of this violence is coming from the loyalist community and the UVF in east Belfast does have a role to play in that."

Just before midnight, a number of shots were fired and a press photographer was shot in his right leg.

He underwent surgery on Wednesday morning.

Targeted

ACC Finlay said it would be a "very strange development" if people were targeting journalists and said it was "more likely" that someone was trying to target police.

"We'll have the opportunity throughout Wednesday to do the analysis in working to investigate what is the attempted murder of the journalist, or indeed whoever was the intended target," he said.

"It would be odd to target a journalist in this particular way, but it would not be odd to target police officers and there were police resources round about where those journalists were standing."

The photographer, who works for a press agency is understood to be in a stable condition in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

Another photographer was standing with other media, near police landrovers on the Lower Newtownards Road when the shooting happened.

"I looked back and there was somebody peering over the wall and he shot about five or six rounds," he said.

"We were all just running.

Blood

"The next thing I know a colleague of mine, he yells, 'I've been shot, I've been shot', and I looked back and his leg on the bottom part, I don't know if he was grazed, or if the bullet went in or what, but I looked at his trousers and his trousers were all stained.

"It was wet, it was obviously blood."

Map showing the location of the trouble in east Belfast Map showing the location of the trouble in east Belfast

The photographer said he had been in contact with his injured colleague.

"He's doing fine," he said.

"I just got a text from him. He's going into surgery this morning. The bullet went in and came out, so it is not life-threatening."

It was initially reported that 700 people were involved in the riots on Tuesday night but police have now said it was between 350 to 400.

The MP for the area, Naomi Long, told the BBC a man who was struck with a brick on Tuesday night had suffered a fractured skull.

'Step back'

She described the trouble as a "very serious situation" and said appeals from political representatives for calm had fallen on "deaf ears".

"People need to step back from this situation," she said.

"We have had another round of gunfire on Tuesday night, we have had someone else injured with a bullet wound.

"When you have guns back on streets, it is very clear that the intent here is to take life.

"There is no other reason why people would bring a gun onto the street, and I think that people need to take a step back and really think about what they are doing."

There was a large police presence, following Monday's sectarian clashes, and two water cannon vehicles arrived.

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