Politicians today appealed for calm after hundreds of youths clashed during fresh sectarian rioting at a north Belfast flashpoint.
Large numbers of police and British army moved into the area near the junction of the Limestone and Halliday’s Roads to keep rival gangs of Catholics and Protestants apart.
The youths threw bricks, bottles, paintbombs and fireworks at each other during an hour of violence before the security forces managed to quell the trouble.
The rioting erupted at about 10pm last night, just hours after political representatives of the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association warned violence in flashpoint areas over Easter could lead to “another summer of mindless violence”.
The Ulster Political Research Group urged all sides to ensure calm amid fears of a repeat of the last year’s rioting which saw more than 1,100 civilians and security force personnel injured.
Republican and unionist politicians today appealed for calm, however, they disagreed over what had sparked last night’s rioting.
Sinn Fein councillor Danny Lavery claimed loyalists threw a pipe bomb at a Catholic home in the Limestone Road area, however, Democratic Unionist councillor Nelson McCausland said republicans attacked Protestant homes nearby.
“We have been calling on our people to remain calm but then a pipe bomb was thrown at a Catholic home in the Limestone Road,” said Mr Lavery.
“The UDA was behind this and I’m not impressed at all with their call for calm, it’s funny that whenever they decide to stop trouble, the interface areas are quiet, that proves they are responsible for the trouble.”
Mr McCausland accused republican youths of initiating the trouble by attacking Protestant homes in the nearby Alexandra Park Avenue area.
“Last night’s violence was the culmination of a week of niggling attacks by republicans,” he said.
“It is important that the police and army have sufficient resources in the area to prevent further violence.
“I would hope that for the sake of the people living in this area, the trouble would stop now and not develop into something worse. Another summer of violence is the last thing this area needs.”
In its statement, the UPRG warned tensions remained dangerously high at the city’s peacelines.
It said: “Interface areas remain volatile and it would not take much irresponsible and selfish action on anyone’s behalf to lead us into another summer of mindless violence.
“The UPRG will be taking the necessary steps to ensure as much as possible that no trouble will flare up in loyalist areas and would hope republicans will reciprocate.
“We call on all those involved in peace work in interface areas to double their efforts to help create a peaceful Easter.”
Last year 1,161 members of the public and security forces were injured during sectarian clashes in Northern Ireland, according to police figures.
A total of 340 baton rounds were fired during the disorder by police and the British army.