BELFAST, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Police in Northern Ireland came
under attack for a fifth straight night on Monday as the
province's police chief urged politicians and parents to act to
halt the riots on Belfast streets.
The violence is some of the worst in the British-controlled
province since a 1998 peace deal ended 30 years of conflict that
pitted Catholics seeking union with Ireland against security
forces and Protestants keen to remain British.
The unrest was triggered by a decision by Belfast city
council - which is dominated by pro-Irish members - to end the
century-old tradition of flying the British flag from City Hall
The council met on Monday for the first time since taking
the decision last month and a protest passed off peacefully
outside City Hall.
But later, in an eastern part of the capital where rival
Protestant and Catholic communities live side by side, a crowd
about 200-strong threw petrol bombs, fireworks and paint bombs
at police who responded with water canon.
Earlier on Monday, Northern Ireland's police chief appealed
to political organisers and parents of youths involved in the
violence - some of whom were as young as 10 - to rein it in.
"As chief constable I'm taking the unusual step of calling
directly now for protests, if not to be ended, to take a step
back, for the violence to come to an end and for responsible
voices to be heard," Matt Baggott told a news conference.
He said members of pro-British militant groups, who ceased
hostilities in recent years, were exploiting and in some cases
instigating the riots.
Militant Republican groups, responsible for the killings of
three police officers and two soldiers since 2009, have so far
not reacted violently to the flag protests.
Some 3,600 people were killed during 30 years of sectarian
violence in Northern Ireland before the 1998 peace agreement.