Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein has claimed that the Northern Ireland peace process is at risk after a Loyalist parade led to an outbreak of rioting in Belfast.
The Deputy First Minister, a former member of the IRA, blamed the Orange Order for disturbances which resulted in serious violence and left dozens of police officers injured after they came under attack with rocks and other weapons.
Members of the Royal Black Institution have now apologised to the congregation of a Roman Catholic Church in north Belfast where band members ignored a ruling not to play provocative music during a march.
Protests by the nationalist community about the band’s behaviour were met with retaliation from Loyalist mobs, resulting in three nights of rioting.
Mr McGuinness claimed that the Orange Order and Unionist politicians had tacitly encouraged Loyalist bands to defy orders from the Parades Commission, which was set up to defuse tensions around the summer marching season.
He described the riots, which police responded to with plastic bullets and water cannon, as a “terrible display of bigotry and sectarianism,” adding that if Loyalists did not “abide by the rule of law” they would be “sowing the seeds of future conflict.”
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