Political leaders appealed for calm Wednesday after a day of rioting broke out over the trial of a Catholic accused of trying to kill a Protestant.
The violence Tuesday aggravated tensions as Protestant gunmen refused to match a cease-fire by the Irish Republican Army.Youths set fire to two buses and five other vehicles in Protestant areas in north and south Belfast, and police were shot at in four incidents, authorities said. No one was hurt in the shootings.
Protestant youths hurled gasoline bombs and rocks at police and firefighters.
The violence, two weeks after the Sept. 1 start of the IRA cease-fire, underlined the fear and anger among the pro-British Protestant majority, some of whose leaders have accused Britain of making a secret deal with the IRA.
"We are appealing for calm again today," Chris McGimpsey, a city councilman in west Belfast's Shankill Road area, said Wednesday.
"What we have to do is to maintain an even path and not overreact," said Baroness Denton, a senior British official in Northern Ireland. "People are bound to be angry, that is understandable."
Prime ministers John Major of Britain and Albert Reynolds of Ireland have offered IRA allies a place at talks on the future of Northern Ireland in exchange for an end to its 24-year campaign of violence to end British rule in the north.
The Ulster Volunteer Force, a Protestant guerrilla group, bombed a train Monday in Dublin, injuring two people. It said the attack was a warning that the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland will not be forced into a united Ireland.
The clashes Tuesday originated in the city's Crown Court, where 23-year-old Stephen Larkin from west Belfast's Catholic Ardoyne area was accused of trying to murder a prominent Protestant, Johnny Adair.