A protestor has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after shots were fired on the latest night of flag protests in Belfast.

Police arrested the 38-year-old after officers came under gunfire during the latest outbreak of violence over a council decision to end the practice of flying the British flag over the city.

Two other men were also detained after a mob of around one hundred loyalists petrol bombs, fireworks, bricks and other masonry at police in East Belfast.

A police spokesman told the Irish Times that officers were called to deal with violence in the Newtownards Road, Albertbridge Road and Castlereagh Street and Templemore Avenue areas.

They used water cannon and rubber and plastic rounds to disperse the crowds.One officer was injured and a number of arrests were made.

The latest violence broke out hours after more than 1,000 demonstrators marched on Belfast’s City Hall. A heavy police presence ensured the rally passed off without major incident but trouble flared later that night in East Belfast.

Nationalist SDLP politician Conall McDevitt has claimed that the firing of shots at police officers ends any claim to legitimacy by protest organisers.McDevitt, a member of the Ulster Assembly, said: “Whatever grievance some people may have had, it is totally lost when they allow people to use these protests as cover for attempted murder.

“There is only one response possible and that’s a firm policing response against everyone involved in illegal protests and anyone seeking to organise or encourage illegal or violent demonstrations.”McDevitt also urged unionist leaders to publicly reject the protests.

He said: “They must do this before someone is killed or seriously injured.”

Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and deputy PM Eamon Gilmore has also condemned the latest attacks.Gilmore said: “These attacks over the past three days are not the mark of legitimate protest but are the actions of a small group who want to bring Northern Ireland back to a darker past.

“The Irish Government fully supports the efforts of and will remain in close contact with elected leaders in Northern Ireland to resolve the flags issue.

”Loyalist protesters still plan to bring their union flag protest to Dublin next week when they will ask for the Tricolour to be lowered at the Irish parliament. =