Police in Northern Ireland were faced with a barrage of gasoline bombs and stones on Thursday, an TBEN reporter said, as violence once again erupted in Belfast despite calls for calm.
Riot police on the Republican side of the divided city were bombarded with projectiles as they tried to stop a crowd from heading towards pro-British unionists.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart Micheal Martin had previously called for “calm” after days of violence which included a gasoline bombing of a moving bus.
Martin and Johnson had phone calls in which they stressed “violence is unacceptable” and “called for calm,” the Irish leader’s office said.
But their calls went unanswered as night fell in Belfast, with unrest on the Republican side of the capital.
The riots of recent days – the city’s worst unrest in recent years – were mainly blamed on its Unionist community, leading to the joint condemnation of political leaders in the British province.
Unionists are angry over apparent economic dislocation due to Brexit and existing tensions with pro-Irish nationalist communities.
“Destruction, violence and the threat of violence are utterly unacceptable and unjustifiable, regardless of the concerns that may exist in communities,” said the executive of Northern Ireland – made up of unionist, nationalist and centrist parties.
“Although our political positions are very different on many issues, we are all united in our support for law and order.”
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis traveled to Belfast to meet with leaders of the main parties, including Unionist Prime Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Fein, as well as advocates of faith and community.
He called the joint condemnation a “very clear statement”, adding “that there is no excuse for violence, we have to make sure that we get things done in an appropriate democratic and political way”.
In Washington, the White House also expressed concern over the violence and called for calm.
In Wednesday’s mess, doors were set on fire on a “peace line” – walls separating pro-Irish nationalist and unionist communities – and police said crowds on either side had moved in to grapple with it. gasoline bombs, missiles and fireworks.
Northern Ireland Police Service (PSNI) Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said the scale and nature of the violence was unprecedented in recent years.
“The fact that it was sectarian violence and that there were large groups on both sides… again, this is not something that we have seen for several years,” he said. he told reporters.
Before Thursday, six nights of unrest left 55 police officers injured, Roberts noted, as well as a press photographer and the driver of the bombed bus on Wednesday.
He said children as young as 13 were suspected of being involved following encouragement from adults, and that the large volume of gasoline bombs used suggested “a level of pre-planning.”
PSNI is investigating whether notorious paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland have been implicated in the unrest.
Northern Ireland has endured 30 years of sectarian conflict that has killed 3,500 people.
Unionist paramilitaries, British security forces and armed nationalists seeking to unite the territory with the Republic of Ireland fought until a landmark peace deal in 1998.
The agreement allowed unionists and nationalists to coexist by blurring the status of the region, by dissolving border controls with Ireland, another member of the European Union.
But the British vote in 2016 to leave the EU rekindled the need for border controls. A special “protocol” was agreed that moved controls from the land border to commercial ports with the UK, prompting many trade unionists to accuse London of treason.
There has also been recent outrage among trade unionists after Northern Irish authorities decided not to prosecute Sinn Fein leaders for attending the funeral of a former paramilitary leader last year, in apparent violation of the restrictions. of Covid.
Few in central Belfast on Thursday wanted to discuss the sticky situation.
“It’s deeply rooted, it’s not just about Brexit,” said Fiona McMahon, 56, before adding that Britain’s withdrawal from the EU had had a “massive impact”.
“The British do whatever they want and we end up with everything afterwards,” she told TBEN.
“ Fantastic ” promises
Prime Minister Johnson tweeted overnight that he was “deeply concerned”, saying “the way to resolve differences is through dialogue and not through violence or crime”.
Johnson and Martin agreed in their call that “the way forward is through dialogue and the work of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement,” according to Dublin.