Police urge solution to marching disputes

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Police chiefs in Northern Ireland have called for a long term solution to the annual parading disputes after another Twelfth of July was marred by serious rioting.

A number of officers were injured in Belfast on Monday night - with one police woman taken to hospital - after being attacked by masked protestors throwing petrol bombs, bricks, bottles and, in one instance, a blast bomb.

In the most serious incident, police fired baton rounds and deployed water cannons in an effort to control nationalist rioters in the Ardoyne area in the north of the city.

The violent scenes at the flashpoint were all too familiar as crowds targeted officers who were there to escort a planned Orange march past the interface dividing loyalist and republican neighbourhoods.

While the vast majority of Orange parades on the Twelfth - a traditional Protestant holiday marking the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 - pass without incident, the failure to resolve the competing demands of Orangemen and nationalist residents over the few remaining contentious marches invariably brings disorder to streets each July.

Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said the challenge was to find a way to resolve the sensitive parades for good.

Mr Finlay said: "We need to see real joined-up strategic political leadership, backed up by everyone in communities making their peaceful voices heard.

"Northern Ireland cannot afford to have violent images beamed across the world every summer - images which are totally unrepresentative of the vast majority of people who have embraced a peaceful and vibrant future."

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