BELFAST (Reuters) - Eight Northern Irish police officers were injured when they were pelted by bottles, beer cans and other missiles, as Protestant loyalists reacted angrily when a cordon was erected to stop an annual Orange Order parade from passing a Catholic estate.
Thousands of Pro-British Protestants hold marches every July 12 in the British-ruled province to mark a 1690 victory by King William of Orange that sealed Protestant domination, a tradition Catholic Irish nationalists consider provocative.
Riot police fired water cannon and plastic bullets at the crowd after a police officer was struck and injured. A crowd of Catholics stood hundreds of meters away, separated from the rioters by the police cordon.
The flashpoint parade ended without violence for the first time in decades last year, when marchers turn around before passing the Catholic Ardoyne area of Belfast. It was held a day later this year, since the 12th fell on a Sunday.
The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, which organizes the marches, said in a statement that it condemned those engaging in violence and that their actions only strengthened the hand of those who wish to further curtail the parades.
Three decades of fighting between mostly Protestant loyalists who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom and Irish nationalists, mainly Catholics, who want it to be part of a united Ireland, led to the deaths of over 3,000 people before a 1998 peace deal.
Violence has subsided but the annual parades often revive tensions and some of the worst rioting in years was sparked two-and-half years ago by a decision to limit the number of days the British flag flies in Belfast.
Writing by Padraic Halpin, editing by Larry King