Two nights of violence at an east Belfast interface erupted after St Matthew’s Church and nationalist homes in the Short Strand came under attack from fireworks, stones and petrol bombs this week.
Four police officers were injured and two vehicles damaged during disturbances on Tuesday night.
The trouble began on Tuesday night, when Sinn Féin’s Niall O Donnghaile said he witnessed the attacks.
“I want to make it very clearly that this cannot and must not be allowed to develop into a worse situation,” he said the following day. “Political unionism must make it very clear to those people responsible for carrying out these attacks that they are unacceptable and must end.”
Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers blamed the trouble on young people involved in “recreational rioting”.
But the situtation deteriorated, and vulnerable homes were attacked in the Strand Walk, Saint Matthews Court and Bryson Court areas of Short Strand the following night.
Speaking after visiting the homes of “vulnerable pensioners”, Mr O Donnghaile blasted the attacks which he said were “growing in frequency and degree, with the much more sinister fact being that the culprits responsible carried out these attacks after they broke their way into the grounds of Saint Matthew’s Chapel.
“I am calling very clearly on the political leaders of Unionism in East Belfast to get their act together and make it very clear to the sick minded individuals carrying out these attacks that their time has long gone; this community cannot be subjected to continued attack and ignored by these same Unionist politicians.
“The PSNI must also understand that taking over six hours to get to the homes under attacks simply is not good enough, regardless of the situation. This inevitably led to an increase in both tension and numbers of those involved.
“The people in these streets need safety and reassurance and the onus is on them to provide it in a measured and effective way.”
Meanwhile, two Orange halls have been damaged in separate attacks in County Tyrone, with one sustaining serious fire damage. The attacks were condemned yesterday by deputy first minister Martin McGuinness.
“Incidents of this kind are a continuing cause of concern for me and I want to assure the Orange community that I see cultural vandalism as having no place in the future of our communities,” he said.
“I would support appeals for anyone who would have information to report that to the police.
“This cultural vandalism has no place in the future we’re committed to building.”