Bus hijacked and left to freewheel as Belfast violence continues
Crowds threw petrol bombs and fireworks as well
Belfast suffered another night of violence as clashes between loyalist and nationalist continued. A bus was attacked and hijacked, with another set alight, in scenes that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said "deeply concerned" him.
Several police officers have also been injured in the violence in the Northern Irish capital, which has lasted several days.
The scenes have centred around the loyalist area of Shankill Road and the nationalist Springfield Road, where predominantly young crowds could be seen launching petrol bombs and fireworks across one of Belfast's peace walls.
— Kelly Bonner (@KellyBonner) April 7, 2021
For over an hour now petrol bombs, fireworks and rocks have been thrown over this peacewall. Crowds goading each other through the gaps. Police landrover appeared to try and ram the gates closed but two-and-fro attacks have continued. pic.twitter.com/3qBXYm6jgY
— Emma Vardy (@EmmaVardyTV) April 7, 2021
The tension between the loyalist and nationalist communities is thought to have risen from the decision not to prosecute people who attended the large-scale funeral of a senior republican figure last year, despite the lockdown restrictions in place at the time. One of those who attended the funeral, along with around 2,000 other mourners, was the vice-president of republican party Sinn Féin and current Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill.
These tensions go hand in hand with concerns among many loyalists that have been present for months surrounding the Brexit deal and its implications for Northern Ireland, in particular the creation of a 'hard border' along the Irish Sea.
Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster labelled the scenes as "an embarrassment to Northern Ireland." However the DUP leader called for the Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Simon Byrne to resign for the handling of the funeral last summer, and tweeted that the violence in Belfast only serves to "take the focus off the real law breakers in Sinn Féin."
Republican parties have accused unionists of provoking more tension and anger by calling for Byrne's resignation.
Northern Ireland's politicians are meeting on Thursday at Stormont to consider a motion brought forward by the Alliance Party calling for an "immediate and complete end" to the violence. It also asks the assembly to condemn "without equivocation those involved" and to reaffirm the assembly's "full commitment to support for policing and for the rule of law."