The chairman of the Northern Ireland Parades Commission has dismissed criticism of his decision to allow to rival protests to go ahead in Belfast on Thursday night as "compete and utter nonsense."

More than 20 police officers were injured on Thursday night as a band of Orangemen marched through the nationalist Ardoyne district.

Close to a dozen shots were believed to have been fired at police, as well petrol bombs and bricks thrown at police. The police responded with water cannon and a total of six baton rounds, while also making six arrests.

Politicians on all sides, including Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson, had criticised Parades Commission decisions which meant the Orangemen having to return early from the main Twelfth of July rally in the city - and allowing a parade by local residents to go ahead in the same place two hours later. Dissident republicans, many of them from outside the area, were among the crowds.

orange order march

The evening's violence was a far cry from the peaceful parades during the day

The Commission was established to adjudicate on contentious marches, and even though there has been major trouble at this particular Catholic/Protestant flashpoint every year for over a decade, the chairman Peter Osborne said given the circumstances, the rulings were correct.

Osbourne told BBC Radio Ulster that it was "complete and utter nonsense to blame the Parades Commission for the violence last night. There has been violence in this location for many, many years now."

He added: "It is time for politicians to take ownership of contentious parades... that's the way forward."

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  • Nationalist rioters use a car as a shield from a police water cannon in North Belfast, Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 12, 2012. Trouble broke out after an Orange Order march passed the area. The Twelfth of July is the busiest day of the marching season in Northern Ireland with thousands of Orangemen and women, accompanied by marching bands, taking part in hundreds of parades. The Orange Order holds its main Belfast event, which commemorates King William III's 1690 Battle of the Boyne victory over Catholic King James II. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

  • A car burns after Nationalist rioters clashed with Police Service of Ireland in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast, Northen Ireland, Thursday, July 12, 2012. Trouble broke out after an Orange Order march passed the area. The Twelfth of July is the busiest day of the marching season in Northern Ireland with thousands of Orangemen and women, accompanied by marching bands, taking part in hundreds of parades. The Orange Order holds its main Belfast event, which commemorates King William III's 1690 Battle of the Boyne victory over Catholic King James II. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

  • Nationalist rioters clash with Police Service of Ireland officers in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast, Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 12, 2012. Trouble broke out after an Orange Order march passed the area. The Twelfth of July is the busiest day of the marching season in Northern Ireland with thousands of Orangemen and women, accompanied by marching bands, taking part in hundreds of parades. The Orange Order holds its main Belfast event, which commemorates King William III's 1690 Battle of the Boyne victory over Catholic King James II. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

  • Nationalist rioters clash with Police Service of Ireland in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast, Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 12, 2012. Trouble broke out after an Orange Order march passed the area. The Twelfth of July is the busiest day of the marching season in Northern Ireland with thousands of Orangemen and women, accompanied by marching bands, taking part in hundreds of parades. The Orange Order holds its main Belfast event, which commemorates King William III's 1690 Battle of the Boyne victory over Catholic King James II. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)