Major disturbances in east Belfast
Major disturbances in east Belfast

Heavy rioting has erupted tonight in east Belfast after a Sinn Fein event was attacked by a large loyalist mob.

A peaceful rally to mark the closure of Mountpottinger police Barracks had just finished tonight when loyalists who had gathered at the Albertbridge Road attacked en masse.

The PSNI were present but failed to prevent the attacks.

Fighting quickly escalated into major communal violence, with some reports indicating that up to 600 loyalists were involved. The loyalists later moved into the Short Strand/Woodstock Road area and began attacking the homes of Catholics in the small nationalist enclave.

It is understood that PSNI riot squads are now present and that plastic bullets have ben fired. There have been a number casualties among those who attended the rally.

There were also unconfirmed reports of live rounds being fired.

The Albertbridge Road, a major thoroughfare in Belfast has been closed.

Sinn Fein had described the rally as an opportunity for the community to come together “after a long fought and hard won campaign” to mark the closure of the heavily militarised and frequently attacked barracks which it said was “a blight on the local community”.

“It served as a reminder of all that was wrong with policing here and presented an obstacle to the development of the type of civilianised community policing that we want to see here.”

The rally also sought to draw attention to the area’s need for more housing and to urge the land be acquired for the development of social and family homes.

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