BELFAST, Northern Ireland — British authorities on Thursday banned a second Protestant parade from passing through Roman Catholic territory, as the province suffered through a fifth straight night of tension between the rival factions.
There were concerns that the verdict could further fuel widespread demonstrations and rioting, and later Thursday, Catholic and Protestant groups skirmished in two parts of Belfast. However, the level of violence was significantly lower than on previous evenings.
The government-appointed Parades Commission, charged with overseeing the Protestant marches that raise sectarian passions each summer, said the Orange Order brotherhood must not march past the Lower Ormeau enclave of Belfast on Wednesday.
Hard-line Protestants have blocked roads, menaced some Catholic homes and attacked police because of authorities' decision to stop them from marching Sunday through the main Catholic section of Portadown, a mostly Protestant town southwest of Belfast.
In both cases, commissioners ruled that Orange leaders should drop their refusal to negotiate directly with the militant Catholic groups that--on both Belfast's Lower Ormeau and Portadown's Garvaghy Road--have organized opposition to Orange parades.
Protestant politicians and church and business leaders appealed to heads of the Orange Order, the British province's once-dominant Protestant fraternal group, to withdraw an appeal for mass protests that already has inspired so much mayhem.
The appeals appeared to have some effect. Human blockades closed at least nine major roads in predominantly Protestant parts of Belfast, but unlike previous evenings, police reported no vehicles hijacked or burned.
After dark, rival mobs of Protestants and Catholics--mostly young men--hurled rocks, bottles and firecrackers at each other on one of northern Belfast's "peace lines," high fences designed to keep the two sides apart. Police reported a similar street skirmish on the city's east side.
But no serious casualties were reported, partly because police intervened to keep the groups apart.
On Thursday, police revealed the scope of the week's turmoil, saying they had arrested 43 rioters during 109 attacks on police and army units. Thirty-two police officers and one soldier were wounded.