BELFAST -- Catholic hard-liners attacked British soldiers and police yesterday after daylong parades across Northern Ireland by the Orange Order, the province's major Protestant brotherhood.
No serious injuries were reported.
In north Belfast, rows of troops and riot police prevented direct clashes between passing Orangemen and the Catholic residents of Ardoyne, a power base for the outlawed Irish Republican Army.
But as soon as the Protestants paraded past, Catholic men and teenage boys surrounded several parked army jeeps with soldiers inside, smashed the windows, and tried to overturn the vehicles.
Riot police armed with shields, clubs, and flame-retardant suits intervened. Water cannons were used to repel rioters, who had also hurled objects into the passing parade.
The Protestants picked up and fired back some of the objects.
"We came under a fairly continuous hail of missiles," said Chris McGimpsey, a moderate Protestant politician who was among about 200 Orangemen marching back to their north Belfast lodge.
Senior officials from Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party, implored rioters to calm down and back off, but to little avail.
Sinn Fein official Gerry Kelly said Catholics were furious that police allowed about 400 supporters of the Orangemen to walk past Ardoyne. British authorities had intended to require the supporters to go home in vehicles, but relented when the Protestant crowd instead threatened to block a major road.
Meanwhile, in the towns of Antrim and Greysteel, Catholics threw stones at two buses carrying Orangemen and musicians home. Several people aboard one bus reported suffering cuts from shattered glass, but no serious injuries were reported.
The evening violence overshadowed a peaceful day of mass demonstrations by Orangemen, who each year celebrate "The Twelfth," Northern Ireland's most divisive holiday, with parades despised by many Catholics.
The holiday, observed each July 12, commemorates the 1690 Battle of the Boyne.
On that day the forces of the newly crowned Protestant king of England, William of Orange, defeated a rival army loyal to James II, William's deposed Catholic rival, in a river valley 70 miles south of Belfast.
The annual parades feature Orangemen in suits and bowler hats, with teenagers and young men playing fife and drum in so-called "kick the pope" bands.
Thousands of Orangemen also travel from nearby Scotland to participate.
At 18 rallying points across Northern Ireland, Orange leaders read declarations of the group's loyalty to Queen Elizabeth II and steadfast opposition to ecumenical contact with Catholics.