Britain’s Union Jack flew over Belfast City Hall on St Patrick’s Day, but that did not prevent loyalists gathering to attack Irish language speakers attending a cultural event there.
Bottles and fireworks were thrown during the disturbances. A freelance photographer was then headbutted and verbally abused by loyalists.
The photographer said some loyalists approached him outside the city hall, followed him and verbally abused him. “They accused me of taking their pictures,” he said. “One of them starting taking my picture.”
The protesters also accused the man of working for Sinn Fein and being a ‘dissident’.
He said they then taunted him and goaded him to hit them. When he did not react, the photographer said a protester head-butted him and bloodied his nose. “The shirt I was wearing was covered in blood,” he said.
Sinn Fein councillor Caoimhin Mac Giolla Mhin said the loyalists had also abused other participants, including children.
“The St Patrick’s Day event inside City hall hosted by Belfast mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir to celebrate the city’s diverse Irish language community was a huge success,” he said.
There was also trouble at the Short Strand interface, where a large crowd gathered on the loyalist side, at the bottom of Castlereagh Street. Stones and other missiles were thrown across the interface.
There were disturbances close to St Matthew’s Catholic Church amid rumours that shots were fired. An unexploded nail bomb device was subsequently recovered on the loyalist Albertbridge Road.
A County Tyrone mother has said her teenage son is lucky he was not killed during a vicious sectarian attack in the town of Castlederg on St Patrick’s night.
The 17-year-old victim received seven stitches to an eye wound and multiple bruising on his back, chest and arms as a result of being tackled to the ground and punched, kicked and bitten by three young males.
The young man was making his way along Main Street around midnight when he was set upon by three loyalists who emerged from a car calling him a fenian b.....d.
Local Sinn Fein Councillor Ruairi Mc Hugh said the attack was vicious and blatantly sectarian and had “heightened tensions” in the town.
The teenager’s mother said her son had been left “in a terrible state” and spoke of her horror on seeing her son lying on the street.
“There were bite marks on his chest and he needed seven stitches to an eye wound and the other eye was closed. There was actual footprint marks on his back and left leg and his left arm was badly bruised.
“The blood was pumping out of him and he was taken to Altnagelvin Hospital. He could have been killed. He has been totally traumatised by what happened and been in bed most of the time during the last two days.”