16 police hurt in flag row clashes

Sixteen police officers have been injured during sectarian riots between republicans and loyalists in east Belfast.

Water cannon and non-lethal baton rounds were fired by officers as they came under a hail of bricks and fireworks when they separated the opposing factions at an interface flashpoint on the Albertbridge Road near Short Strand.

Demonstrators were returning from a 1,000-strong protest outside Belfast City Hall against the council’s decision to restrict the flying of the Union flag.

Countless roads have been blocked during the loyalist campaign – in one case north of Belfast a pensioner trying to visit his dying wife in hospital was turned back.

He said: “If your wife was dying what would you be doing? Have a bit of sense. Protestants, you don’t know the meaning of the word, take yourselves home, show a bit of respect for people.”

They responded by jeering “cheerio” in a recording made by the BBC.

In west Belfast a GP was twice prevented from attending a home visit with a patient terminally ill with cancer.

Nationalist SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt said: “These are depraved acts which immediately dismiss any claim on a protest being peaceful.”