Northern Ireland sees another day of unrest

Police officers come under attack, public bus burnt down in Belfast

Ahmet Gurhan Kartal   | 08.04.2021
Northern Ireland sees another day of unrest


Police officers were attacked and a public transport bus was set alight in Belfast on Wednesday as unrest in Northern Ireland that began over the weekend continued.

Public disorder broke out after crowds gathered at the junction of Lanark Way and Shankill Road, said a statement from the Police Service in Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Police also confirmed a report of an assault on a press photographer who worked for the Belfast Telegraph.

More than 40 police officers were injured during the unrest, which has continued since Saturday.

The unrest started when some Sinn Fein members attended a crowded funeral on top of tensions caused by Brexit border arrangements, which brought checks on goods shipped between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The unionist parties criticized PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne for allowing such a gathering despite coronavirus restrictions and demanded his resignation.

Byrne said, "the ongoing street disorder must stop.”

He wrote on Twitter that he was "open to dialogue with anyone who is willing to work with me to resolve the issues facing our community.”

"My message to those engaged in violence tonight is go home before someone is seriously injured. Violence is not the answer."

Politicians react

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter that he was “deeply concerned by the scenes of violence in Northern Ireland, especially attacks on PSNI who are protecting the public and businesses, attacks on a bus driver and the assault of a journalist.”

“The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality.”

First Minister Arlene Foster tweeted that the violence Wednesday was "vandalism and attempted murder" and does “not represent unionism or loyalism.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill described the events as "disgraceful scenes of criminality.”

Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the scenes were "very disturbing" and that "attacks on police, journalists and citizens must be condemned by all."

The Stormont Assembly is set to convene on Thursday morning for an emergency debate following days of violence.

- Fragile peace

Northern Ireland is remembered for its decades-long sectarian violence and terrorism, which cost the lives of thousands until around 22 years ago.

The Troubles -- an era of conflict between the British government and pro-British paramilitaries on one side and Irish Republicans and nationalists on the other --ended in 1998 when the Belfast Agreement put an end to decades of armed struggle in the divided UK region of Northern Ireland.

The UK and the Republic of Ireland signed the deal, brokered by the US and eight political parties in Northern Ireland, on April 10, 1998.

The deal, dubbed the Good Friday Agreement, largely saw the end of the Troubles-era violence, in which 3,500 people lost their lives.

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