Intense rioting as flags protests continue
Plastic bullets were fired and water cannons were used as rioting erupted early this evening at loyalist flags protests.
The riots continued for several hours in Newtownabbey, outside Belfast, and in Carrickfergus, County Antrim.
A large number of road blockings took place throughout the Six Counties on Friday evening, causing major road disruption across the region.
In one incident, an elderly man was jeered by protestors in north Belfast after they refused to allow him access to visit his dying wife.
The number of protestors was smaller than previous incidents before Christmas, although the level of violence and determination of the rioters appeared undiminished.
Some of the worst trouble was in Newtownabbey, where petrol bombs, fireworks and other missiles were thrown at PSNI police, and a bus was set on fire earlier.
In Carrickfergus, one PSNI man was injured by a mob throwing petrol bombs, masonry and other missiles.
Thirty-three petrol bombs were thrown in total. The PSNI said they fired five plastic bullets in return.
The rallies, dubbed by organisers as ‘Operation Standstill’, formed part of a continuing loyalist campaign against the decision to restrict the flying of the Union Jack Flag from Belfast City Hall.
Roads were blocked throughout County Antrim and County Down, including in Bangor, Newtownards, Castlereagh, Clough, Clonduff, Dundonald, Finaghy, and all across Belfast.
A ‘surprise’ protest planned for outside Leinster House in Dublin tonight was postponed, but a further rally is planned for Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon.