Police have come under attack with bottles, bricks and fireworks during disturbances in a Loyalist area of Belfast.
Officers were targeted by a crowd of mostly young people on Friday night, and followed four successive nights of disturbances in the unionist Waterside area of Londonderry.
The disorder flared amid ongoing tensions within loyalism across Northern Ireland.
Loyalists and unionists are angry about post-Brexit trading arrangements which they claim have created barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Tensions ramped up further this week following a decision not to prosecute 24 Sinn Fein politicians for attending a large scale republican funeral during Covid-19 restrictions.
In the wake of the decision not to take action against the politicians, including deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, all the main unionist parties have demanded the resignation of PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne, claiming he has lost the confidence of their community.
The Sandy Row disturbances, which unfolded ahead of a planned loyalist protest in the area, were met with widespread political condemnation on Friday night.
However, the main non-unionist parties also accused unionist leaders of creating the febrile atmosphere and stoking up tensions.
Alliance Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “This is in no-one’s best interests – not the officers dealing with it and not the mostly young people risking their futures by engaging in it.
“It’s incumbent on leaders to behave responsibly and dial down the inflammatory rhetoric over recent days. Words have consequences.”
DUP MLA for the area Christopher Stalford said: “Given the actions of the Deputy First Minister some folks may believe that they can break the rules.
“That is not the case – two wrongs don’t make a right.
“The vast majority of people involved in this incident were under the age of 18.
“I do not want to see young people, acting out of frustration at recent developments landing themselves in trouble with the law and ending up with criminal records.
“Everyone must be equal under the law and equally subject to it, from the highest office holder in the land to every other citizen.”
Sinn Fein MP for West Belfast Paul Maskey said: “The DUP and political unionism are failing unionist working class communities through their dangerous and irresponsible rhetoric which has is continuing to lead to heightened tensions.
“This is a time for calm heads and responsible leadership
“I appeal to the DUP and political unionism to show leadership, to end their dangerous rhetoric and to ensure there is an urgent de-escalation of tensions.”
SDLP South Belfast MLA Matthew O’Toole tweeted: “Worrying scenes in South Belfast, which advance no cause and certainly help no community.
“Young people from a proud working class and, yes, loyalist area of Belfast deserve real leadership not simply heated rhetoric.”
In response to the incident, Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie tweeted: “Stop please……. this is not going to help anyone or change anything. It damages and endangers your own community, it undermines any grievance you might have and it will achieve nothing.”
The Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, tweeted: “Once again the outworkings of political flux in Northern Ireland results in our @PoliceServiceNI colleagues being attacked.
“No excuse for violence and condemnation across the political spectrum would be welcome.”
A PSNI spokesman said: “Police are currently in attendance at an ongoing incident, involving a gathering of people, in the Sandy Row/Donegall Pass area of Belfast.”
In Derry on Thursday night, petrol bombs and masonry were thrown at officers during disturbances in the predominantly unionist Rossdowney Road/Lincoln Court area of the Waterside.
Earlier in the week, similar scenes were witnessed in the unionist Tullyvalley area in the Waterside.
Shortly after 9pm on Thursday, youths with petrol bombs and masonry gathered in the Rossdowney Road/Lincoln Court area and placed pallets on the road before setting them alight.
A digger parked nearby was also set alight.
The PSNI said its officers came under sustained attack when they responded.
Firefighters who attended the scene were also attacked.
PSNI Derry City and Strabane District Commander, Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones, said: “It is extremely disappointing that for four consecutive nights we have witnessed scenes of anti-social and criminal behaviour in the Waterside.
“These reckless attacks are not wanted by anyone and do nothing but cause harm and damage to the local community who we know just want to live in peace.”
I am a highly skilled IT Specialist with over 12 years of experience in Web Design, Graphic Design, Web Blogging, ITL Management, IT Support Desk Manager Skills. I am a qualified and experienced within NHS, Automotive Companies, HR, Administration, Finance, marketing and other 3rd Party Companies with IT requirements. I am also self employed as Web Design, Radio Broadcaster, Media Technician, Sound Engineer and IT Specialist.