Martin McGuinness says Northern Ireland’s Peace Process put at risk by rioting in Belfast

Martin McGuinness

The North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has claimed that the peace process is at risk after a Loyalist parade led to three nights of rioting in Belfast.

McGuinness has blamed the Orange Order for the disturbances that left dozens of police officers seriously injured after rocks and other weapons were hurled at them.

According to the Irish Independent, members of the Orange Order's Royal Black Institution apologized to the congregation of a Catholic Church in north Belfast in the aftermath of its band members decision to ignore their ruling not to play provocative music during a march.

Protests by the nationalist community about the band's belligerence were quickly met with retaliation from Loyalist mobs, leading to three nights of rioting.

McGuinness claimed that both the Orange Order and Unionist politicians had tacitly encouraged the Loyalist bands to defy orders from the Parades Commission, the organization which was set up to defuse sectarian tensions in the north relating to the summer marching season.

McGuinness called the riots, which police responded to with plastic bullets and water cannon, a 'terrible display of bigotry and sectarianism.' He added that if Loyalists could not 'abide by the rule of law' they would be 'sowing the seeds of future conflict.'

Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr told the press he feared that police officers would eventually be killed in these kinds of disturbances unless politicians stopped 'posturing' and resolved the parades issue. Kerr directed his remarks at both McGuinness and Peter Robinson, the DUP First Minister.

Both McGuinness and Robinson are to scheduled to hold emergency talks with Assembly members from north Belfast at Stormont Castle in an urgent attempt to end the sectarian violence.

Kerr has vowed to arrest all involved in the attacks on his officers. 'Let me be clear, we have made seven arrests already and with a robust criminal justice strategy in place there will be more,' he told the press.

Three men aged 18, 19 and 20, have all been charged with riotous assembly and will appear at Belfast magistrates' court on Wednesday.