Northern Ireland police say at least eight officers have been injured in nighttime Belfast riots after the British territory's main Protestant brotherhood was blocked from marching through a Catholic district.

The riot police suffered a range of injuries from hand-thrown projectiles as they blocked the Orange Order parade from passing Ardoyne, a power base of the outlawed Irish Republican Army. Masked youths in the Protestant mob tried to break through police lines but were forced back by officers' locked shields and blasts from mobile water cannons.

Police have blocked the annual Orange parade past Ardoyne since 2013, when Orangemen and their supporters rioted for hours. The anti-Catholic group has mounted a round-the-clock protest camp near the point of the blockade for the past two years.