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Violence Must Stop: Leaders Call for End to ‘Street Disorder’ in N Ireland as Unrest Enters 6th Day

On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned ongoing violent clashes in Northern Ireland, urging the sides to resolve disagreements by means of dialogue, rather than “violence or criminality”.

Northern Ireland’s leaders are due to discuss the ways to resolve the ongoing violence in the country, following a Wednesday incident in Belfast where a bus was hijacked and set on fire during the sixth consecutive night of unrest.

The country’s Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said on Thursday that the executive would be briefed on the “violence and street disorder which is causing huge distress in local communities at this time”.

She pointed out that “those involved in violence, criminal damage, manipulation of our young people and attacks on the police must stop”.

O’Neill was echoed by Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster who tweeted that there’s “no justification for violence”, describing protesters as “an embarrassment” to the country, who Foster claimed aims “to take the focus off the real law breakers in Sinn Fein”.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for his part, expressed serious concern over “the scenes of violence in Northern Ireland”, stressing differences should be resolved at the negotiating table, not through “violence or criminality”.

The remarks followed a double-decker vehicle being stolen in Belfast by protesters who later threw several incendiary bottles at the bus, setting it ablaze at the junction of Lanark Way and Shankill Road, with the driver reportedly being assaulted.

The sixth day of unrest also saw street clashes with police in some parts of Northern Ireland, as protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails at officers. More than 40 policemen were reportedly injured and nine people were detained since the outbreak of the new violence.

Beginning of Unrest

The unrest kicked off last Friday, when the Northern Ireland prosecutor’s office refused to charge members of the republican party Sinn Fein for breaking COVID-19 restrictions after they attended the funeral of former member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) Bobby Storey, who fought for separation from the United Kingdom.

More than 2,000 mourners attended Storey’s funeral on 30 June 2020, and unionists claimed they blatantly ignored social distancing rules at the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

This led to all of the main pro-British parties – the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV), and Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) – calling for the resignation of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)’s chief constable.

A car burns after it was hijacked by Loyalists at the Cloughfern roundabout in Newtownabbey, Belfast, Northern Ireland, Saturday, April 3, 2021.

Last week’s unrest turned into violent protests as loyalists, who advocate closer ties with London, are concerned over the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Brexit trade deal between London and Brussels.

The protocol stipulates control procedures for an array of goods that transit to and from Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland remains in the single market for goods and applies EU customs rules at its ports, the protocol moved the regulatory and customs border to the Irish Sea, with a series of checks, and obligatory certifications now additionally required for many goods to be shipped into the region from other parts of Great Britain, causing dissatisfaction among loyalists in Northern Ireland, who feel it creates a border between them and the rest of the UK. 

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