Crowds of young people in a pro-British neighborhood in Belfast set a hijacked bus on fire and attacked police with stones in the latest in a series of nightly outbreaks of violence that started last week.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “deeply concerned” by the violence, which has injured dozens of police in recent days as protesters burned cars and threw petrol bombs at police.
The violence comes amid growing frustration among many members of the pro-British Unionist community at the new trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom resulting from Britain’s exit from the United Kingdom. ‘European Union.
I am deeply concerned about the scenes of violence in Northern Ireland, in particular the attacks on the PSNI which protects the public and businesses, the attacks on a bus driver and the assault on a journalist. The way to resolve disputes is through dialogue, not through violence or crime.
– Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 7, 2021
The British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has also highlighted the police decision not to prosecute Irish nationalists Sinn Fein over a large burial last year which violated COVID-19 regulations.
Sinn Fein in turn accused the DUP of fueling tensions with its staunch opposition to the new trade deals and its call in recent days for the region’s police chief to resign.
The Northern Ireland Police Service said part of the violence was influenced by “criminal elements” who helped orchestrate the attacks.
It is not a protest. It’s vandalism and attempted murder. These actions do not represent unionism or loyalty. They are embarrassing to Northern Ireland and only serve to distract from real Sinn Fein law breakers.
My thoughts are with the bus driver. https://t.co/2JRcOb6s8C
– Arlène Foster #WeWillMeetAgain (@DUPleader) April 7, 2021
Wednesday’s violence took place near Shankill Road, west Belfast, near a so-called ‘peace wall’ that separates the community from the Irish nationalist stronghold of Falls Road, where groups of young people hang out. are also gathered.
Walls and fences were built between the two communities to avoid clashes during three decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland that largely ended in a 1998 peace deal.
“I am deeply concerned about the scenes of violence in Northern Ireland,” Johnson wrote in a message on Twitter. “The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not through violence or crime.”
Leaders of Northern Ireland’s biggest political parties Sinn Fein and DUP have both condemned the violence, including the hijacking of buses and an attack on a photojournalist for the Belfast Telegraph newspaper.
“These actions do not represent unionism or loyalty. They are a disgrace for Northern Ireland,” wrote DUP leader Arlene Foster in a Twitter post which then described Sinn Fein’s rivals as “the real law breakers “.