Loyalist disturbances in north Belfast

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Homes and businesses in the Oldpark area of north Belfast have been attacked by loyalists throwing bricks, bottles and timber.

Tensions have increased over the past two weeks after loyalists erected Union Jack flags directly beside nationalist homes in Ardoyne and on the predominantly nationalist Cavehill Road.

Coming into the loyalist marching season, tensions are already high with nationalist areas expecting to be once again sealed off and swamped with heavily armed British crown forces to facilitate the sectarian marches.

Adding to the tensions are recent statements from loyalist politicians and paramilitaries of a ‘return to war’, and sectarian attacks if the current trade protocol isn’t scrapped and a hard border put on the island of Ireland.

The 32 County Sovereignty Movement said it would be monitoring the situation and advised people living in the area to remain alert.

There is also concern in the nearby nationalist New Lodge area, where construction is underway of a loyalist bonfire at a sectarian interface.

The bonfire at Adam Street became the focus of a High Court bid by former Stormont Ministers to remove the material after a resident of the area took legal action.

The PSNI refused to respond to the Ministerial order, claiming that enforcement would present a “risk to life”.

A judge in September agreed the bonfire had been used by some loyalists to “intimidate and terrorise” residents in the New Lodge area by hitting golf balls, throwing bricks and singing sectarian songs.

Justice Horner said it was “intimidation of the worst kind” and was “designed to incite, to try and produce a visceral reaction”, but no action was ordered to support its permanent removal by the PSNI.

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