Robinson: ‘We are not giving up’
The Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson has said the political process is the only way forward following another night of violence in Belfast.
Twenty-nine police officers were injured in rioting after a loyalist protest over the union flag.
Officers fired six baton rounds and used water cannon during the 40th day of street protests.
Mr Robinson said politicians had not given up on a “shared society”.
“We took some difficult decisions, some might say historic decisions to build a shared society in Northern Ireland,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.
“I think it is important to tell the wider community in Northern Ireland and our friends in the rest of the United Kingdom that we are not giving up on that.
“We are very much of the view that we are determined that we build the kind of society where everybody can have a peaceful and stable existence.”
Mr Robinson and the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness are due to meet with the British and Irish governments this week.
He said they would make it “very clear” to the governments the condemnation that existed in the wider Northern Ireland community for the violence.
The latest violence began around 14:30 GMT on Saturday, when loyalists and nationalists clashed at a sectarian interface in the east of the city.
Demonstrators were passing the nationalist Short Strand area – after a 1,000-strong protest outside Belfast City Hall against the council’s decision to restrict the flying of the Union flag – when the violence began.
The police said the “vast majority” of demonstrators broke away from an agreed return route on their way back from the protest.
Bricks, stones and missiles were thrown at police and four officers were taken to hospital with injuries – two were later discharged.
A car was later set on fire at the junction of Castlereagh Street and Templemore Avenue.
The violence subsided in the early evening but after 21:00 GMT it erupted as loyalists attacked police again at Castlereagh Street. Police used water cannon on rioters to push them away from the interface with the Short Strand.
PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott said officers had used “exceptional courage” to bring the situation under control.
Mr Baggott said: “This was a difficult operation dealing with a large number of people determined to cause disorder and violence.
“My colleagues brought the situation under control with exceptional courage and professionalism. I know the vast majority of people will be grateful for their efforts.
“Police will continue to engage with all those committed to finding a solution to these issues.”
Loyalist street demonstrations have been taking place for almost six weeks, since Belfast City Council voted to change its longstanding union flag policy on 3 December.
The council, which now has a nationalist majority, voted to fly the flag at Belfast City Hall on a number of designated days, rather than every day of the year.
The majority of the street demonstrations have passed without incident, but some have resulted in serious rioting.