Protestant and Catholic leaders in Northern Ireland have vowed to protect the peace process after sectarian rioting left more than 80 police injured. There are fears of a new generation of violence.
Rioters took to the streets after a Protestant march on Monday
Northern Irish politicians from both sides of the country's political divide vowed that street violence would not be allowed to threaten the peace process.
More than 80 police officers were injured after rioting in Belfast and other towns and cities, with fears that a new generation is becoming embroiled in sectarian struggles.
"This administration is determined to move our society forward," said First Minister and Unionist leader Peter Robinson said in a statement on Wednesday after three nights of violence.
Petrol bombs, pipe bombs and bottles were among the missiles thrown
Children as young as nine were reported to have been involved in the rioting which continued into Wednesday morning in the Catholic district of Ardoyne. The violence followed the annual Protestant Orange Order parades, which mark the July 12 anniversary of a military victory over Catholics that dates back to 1689.
"We are very disappointed that the baton of hatred has been handed over to another generation," Robinson, of the Protestant community's Democratic Unionist party, said in an appeal for calm.
While giving his statement, Robinson was flanked by Martin McGuinness - his deputy from Sinn Fein, the main Catholic party. McGuinness praised the police for its handling of the riots in which petrol bombs, pipe bombs, bricks and bottles were thrown at officers.
McGuinness said the past few days had been a "setback" in bringing peace and stability to Northern Ireland, with a "small number of people" opposed to dialogue.
Control over policing and justice powers was handed to Belfast in April, the final piece of a process to devolve power to Northern Ireland from London.
Author: Richard Connor (AFP/dpa)
Editor: Catherine Bolsover