By David Wilkes Daily Mail
Last updated at 3:57 PM on 14th July 2010
A laser shines out in the acrid Northern Ireland night air as police come under attack again in what was described as a 'Disney theme park' for rioting children.
The green beam was used to try to blind officers who also had to dodge bullets and petrol bombs as masked mobs for the third night running rampaged in Ardoyne, the hard-line Catholic district in north Belfast where violence has flared at the height of the loyalist marching season.
A lone attacker armed with a handgun fired up to six shots as riot police combated the rioters. Around 100 officers in riot gear responded with water cannon as they tried to disperse them.
Blinding: Protesters shone high-powered laser pens into the the eyes of police
Irish nationalist rioters burn a hi-jacked car in the Ardoyne Area of North Belfast last night
Witnesses said the shots on Tuesday night appeared to have been aimed at a police surveillance camera recording the actions of the rioters, who also threw dozens of Molotov cocktails, at least one homemade grenade and set cars on fire.
Senior police officers, who have implicated dissident republicans opposed to the peace process in fomenting the violence, say children as young as eight have been at the centre of the disturbances and have described it as 'recreational rioting with a sinister egde'.
Catholic priest Gary Donegan, who witnessed the latest mayhem which lasted until 2am, said: 'It was like a Euro Disney theme park for rioting. It was ludicrous.'
He described how youths aged eight to 18 were 'playing it up' for crowds of girls who were watching the ritoing and taking pictures on their mobile phones for posting on social networking sites on the internet. Many of the girls were dressed for a night out and 'at one stage if looked like a Milan catwalk.'
Sparking violence: A masked youth prepares to throw a petrol bomb at police last night
Irish nationalist rioters attack officers last night who then respond with water cannon
He and local Ardoyne authority figures including Irish Republican Army veterans once involved in directing, not stopping, riots, tried all night to take rocks, bottles and stones out of children's hands, but they would not listen.
'I had children facing down hardened mainstream Republicans... they were taking it from these young people, who were literally out of control,' Fr Donegan said.
Northern Ireland's Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland said that as well as throwing stones and petrol bombs, young children were being used as shields by 'sinister elements' organising the riots behind them.
Meanwhile, in the Commons, David Cameron branded the attacks on police as 'completely unacceptable' and paid tribute the 'restraint' and bravery shown by officers.
Flame rises from a car as it was set ablaze by Irish nationalist rioters in North Belfast last night
Flashpoint: Protesters hold the Irish flag in front of burning cars during Nationalist rioting in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast on Monday night
He said more than 80 police officers had been injured in the rioting but insisted policing was now a devolved issue and it should be left to politicians in Northern Ireland to 'give the lead' in dealing with the violence.
Despite the gunman's bid to scupper the police surveillance operation, ACC McCausland said they had hours of video footage from before the violence started and would use it to identify the rioters.
He said: 'There will be significant arrests in the forthcoming days - individuals will not go scot free.'
The rioter who dropped a concrete block on a policewoman during the major distrubance in Ardoyne on Monday night, seriously injuring her, had already been identified, he added.
'Wherever he is in Northern Ireland he can sit and be worried - we will be coming for him,' he said.
The violence erupted in Ardoyne as crowds targeted officers who had been trying to escort a planned Orange Order march past streets dividing loyalist and republican neighbourhoods. It began on Sunday night and spread to several working-class Catholic neighborhoods.
Victim: A policewoman (circled) was injured by a concrete block thrown by a protester
Blaze: A stolen car explodes as police clash with Nationalist protesters in Belfast. Several officers were injured