Missiles thrown at police during north Belfast trouble

Fireworks and missiles were thrown at police

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A number of fireworks and other missiles were thrown at police lines during disturbances in north Belfast on Tuesday evening.

The police moved in after a crowd of about 200 people gathered in the Denmark Street area at about 22:00 BST.

A police inspector suffered a hand injury during the disturbance, which lasted about an hour.

It was the third night of violence in the area which erupted as a result of tension surrounding a parades dispute.

Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are expected to meet north Belfast assembly members and the local DUP MP, Nigel Dodds, on Wednesday afternoon.

Analysis

The outbreak of violence is a stark reminder that parts of Belfast are still heavily divided.

The so-called peace walls - more than 40 of them - which keep Catholics and Protestants apart are a concrete monument to Northern Ireland's bitter history.

The spark for the trouble in north Belfast was a parades dispute.

This is no surprise.

The marching issue remains the biggest thorn in the side of the peace process.

The meeting is being described as a first step in their efforts to explore solutions to the parading problem in the area.

More than 60 police officers have been injured and seven hospitalised during three nights of disturbances.

A water cannon was moved into the street at 23:00 BST on Tuesday but was not used. A short time later, the crowd of loyalists dispersed and police began scaling down their operation.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Methodist Church in Ireland said it was "unacceptable" for the first minister to have kept silent on recent events in north Belfast.

"The only way he and his office can retain their credibility is if Mr Robinson issues a strong condemnation of all those who broke the law and broke the peace and puts in place measures to make community interaction and dialogue the norm," he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, a senior police officer challenged politicians to sort out the parades issue before someone was killed.

Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr was speaking after a second night of violence - believed to be mainly loyalist - in north Belfast.

ACC Kerr said he feared someone would be killed unless the violence in the Carlisle Circus area stopped.

He said he did not believe the violence was officially sanctioned by any loyalist paramilitary groups, but he said members of these groups had been involved in the trouble.

He challenged politicians and community leaders to "sort this out, and sort it out now," ahead of a planned loyalist parade on 29 September marking the 100th anniversary of the Ulster Covenant signing.

Tensions have been running high in north Belfast since 12 July, when a loyalist band taking part in an annual Protestant Orange Order parade was filmed marching in a circle outside a Catholic church, playing what was perceived to be a sectarian song.

The band, the Young Conway Volunteers, maintained they were not playing the Famine Song, an anti-Catholic song judged racist by a court in Scotland, but Sloop John B, a Beach Boys song.

The Parades Commission, which makes determinations on contentious marches in Northern Ireland, barred the same band from passing the same church in a march on 25 August.

However, disturbances followed in the area after the band defied the restriction and others breached separate ones.

This latest trouble follows loyalist objections to a lack of restrictions placed by the Parades Commission on a republican parade nearby on Sunday.

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