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Chaos Erupts: Protestants and Catholics Violently Clash in North Ireland

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"They will not be allowed to drag us back to the past."

Chaos has erupted in Belfast, Northern Ireland, as masked Protestant youths have, once again, clashed with Catholics. Last night marked the second evening of intense violence. Police say that around 400 people took place in the unrest in Short Strand, a small Catholic community that is situated in a majority Protestant area. The incidents constitutes the worst sectarian violence in more than a decade. The Globe and Mail has more:

Masked and hooded youths threw bricks, bottles, fireworks and other missiles at each other, and at armoured police vehicles. Police fired more than 60 plastic bullets at the marauding youths.

Sectarian tensions typically flare in the build-up to July 12, a divisive holiday when tens of thousands of Protestants from the Orange Order brotherhood march across Northern Ireland. Last summer, more than 80 police officers were wounded during four nights of riots in Catholic districts of Belfast.

Deutsche Welle writes:

Violence is believed to have broken out on Monday night after pro-British protestant gangs attacked Catholic homes in the Short Strand area of Belfast. Gunshots were subsequently fired on both sides.

While the violence is contained to a relatively small area, its intensity is concerning. One photographer who was covering the protests was shot in the leg and is currently in stable condition.

Peter Robinson, North Ireland's Protestant First Minister joined his Catholic deputy, Martin McGuinness, in condemning the violence and its perpetuators. McGuinness said, "A small minority of individuals are clearly determined to destabilize our communities. They will not be allowed to drag us back to the past."

Watch some of the violence erupt below:

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