Northern Ireland: Why is there violence in Belfast?

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In recent days, Northern Ireland has been in the throes of some of the worst violence in decades, as loyalists and nationalists clash with police in West Belfast.

On Wednesday, a bus was set on fire and 55 officers were injured as organized groups threw stones, fireworks and petrol bombs. The unrest erupted again Thursday night – the seventh consecutive night of unrest.

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Chaos has also spread to union neighborhoods in Londonderry and other towns in County Antrim.

Who is involved?

Most of the violence took place in loyalist areas, such as Carrickfergus and Newtonabbey.

The rioters are mostly young men, in small groups of around 20 to 30 people. In some cases, children have also been implicated – including a 12-year-old.

This has led to the claim that violence is manipulated by gangs and organized criminals who stay off the front lines.

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Why do people revolt?

The causes of violence can be attributed to a number of factors.

1. Brexit

Loyalists in Northern Ireland are angry that Britain’s post-Brexit trade deals with the EU have created barriers between the region and the rest of Britain.

The deal with Brussels – known as the Northern Ireland Protocol – is controversial.

The government had promised that there would be no barriers to trade between Britain and Northern Ireland when the UK left the EU. But since Brexit, there have been checks on food and goods moving between Europe and Northern Ireland, which has been disruptive.

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