Northern Ireland Clashes: Four Officers Injured

Petrol bombs have been thrown and a bus set on fire during Union flag demonstrations in Northern Ireland.

Officers were pelted with bombs, fireworks and other missiles in the Rathcoole area of Newtownabbey, north of Belfast.

A bus was also set on fire during the disorder. Police deployed water cannon in an attempt to restore calm.

In Carrickfergus, also north of Belfast, police fired one baton round as serious disorder broke out following a protest.

A large crowd of rioters hurled bricks, bottles and fireworks at officers in the West Street area of the Co Antrim town.

The pickets were among numerous flag demonstrations across Northern Ireland in co-ordinated action dubbed “Operation standstill” by organisers.

Many roads were blocked off between 6pm and 8pm as loyalist protesters again took to the streets to voice their opposition to Belfast City Council’s decision to limit the number of days the Union flag flies at City Hall.

Rugby fans travelling to Ravenhill in east Belfast for Ulster’s crunch Heineken Cup game against Glasgow faced major disruption due to the pickets.

But the city centre was not as empty as might have been expected after an online campaign urged people to defy the protests.

They were urged instead to stage an “Operation sit-in” in cafes, pubs and restaurants to give businesses hit by the six-week campaign of street action a much-needed boost to trade.