Politicians and police chiefs condemned escalating loyalist violence in Northern Ireland today after overnight riots saw a number of attacks on Alliance Party members and property.
The office of Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson in Carrickfergus was burned down and police clashed with loyalist crowds rioting against Monday's decision by Belfast City Council to fly the Union flag only on certain designated days.
The Alliance Party had proposed the amendment limiting when the flag should be flown, leading many unionists to denounce them as traitors.
An office belonging to a disabled charity was also damaged in the Carrickfergus fire.
At least four police officers were injured in the riot, which saw security forces unleash non-lethal baton rounds against a crowd of around 1,600 people, many of whom threw stones and bottles.
Mr Dickson accused the two main loyalist parties - the Ulster Unionist Party and Democratic Unionist Party - of whipping up tensions.
"This is an outright attack on democracy and cannot be allowed to stand," he said.
And Social Democratic Labour Party MP Alasdair McDonnell said the parties should take steps to defuse the violence.
"Political parties cannot call people onto the streets and then seek to abdicate responsibility when things become violent," he said.
"This is a disgusting attack against each and every person who supports the rule of law.
"The people who carried out this attack have no respect for the flag they claim to care so much about - if they did, they would not attempt to wreck the fabric of our society, the rule of law."
Arsonists in Bangor, Co Down, targeted the office of Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry but were spotted by police and fled before doing any serious damage.
In the same town a paint bomb was hurled at a house shared by two councillors and their 17-month-old baby, smashing a window.
Mr Farry said: "An orchestrated campaign of intimidation against Alliance elected representatives has unsurprisingly turned violent.
"We will remain resolute in standing up for a shared future and democracy."
Police Service of Northern Ireland assistant chief constable Will Kerr said: "We saw criminal, thuggish behaviour and we need to put a stop to this."
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