Most of Northern Ireland was brought to a standstill yesterday as Protestants opposed to a new Anglo-Irish power-sharing agreement staged a one-day general strike marked by violence and intimidation. Late Monday violence spilled into the streets as youths broke windows and set fire to cars in central Belfast, while in Protestant east Belfast about 500 youths hurled missiles at police vehicles.
About 100 masked youths pelted police with fire bombs in north Belfast, but no casualties were reported, and a policeman was shot in the leg by his own gun in a melee outside a factory gate in south Belfast, police said.
The stoppage, which affected road, rail, sea, and air transportation, was called by Protestant loyalists to protest the agreement giving Dublin a say in running the province.
Police kept most main roads open Monday morning to allow people to get to work, but later they largely stood aside as protesters blocked roads with tractors, trees, and telegraph poles.
Major industrial concerns in Belfast reported a 10 to 15 percent turnout, and most city stores were open. There were, however, reports of widespread intimidation, as factory workers were photographed as they arrived on their jobs and shopkeepers were warned not to open their stores.
Britain's Northern Ireland secretary, Tom King, condemned the intimidation and described the effects of the strike as ``patchy,'' but he said it could cause irreversible harm to the province's economy.
Protestant political leaders hailed the stoppage as a major success. Peter Robinson, deputy leader of the hard-line Protestant Democratic Unionist Party, told reporters, ``The Northern Ireland secretary has shown that he cannot govern without our consent, but we have shown we can control the province without his.''