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07th Apr 2021

Violence continues in Northern Ireland with petrol bombs thrown at police

At least 41 police officers have been injured as unrest continues on the streets of Londonderry and Belfast

Nadine Batchelor-Hunt

At least 41 police officers have been injured as unrest continues on the streets of Londonderry and Belfast

Cars have been set alight, vehicles have been hijacked, and petrol bombs have been thrown at police as violence erupts across Londonderry and Belfast following tensions among loyalists over the weekend.

Post-Brexit trading announcements have stoked tensions in Northern Ireland, with some loyalists saying it creates a hard-border between their country and the rest of the United Kingdom down the Irish Sea.

The situation has been further enflamed by Northern Irish authorities making the decision not to prosecute 24 Sinn Féin politicians for attending a large republican funeral during the pandemic.

Police have appealed for calm after rioting over the weekend, with Secretary for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis today condemning the scenes via Twitter.

“I am being kept closely appraised by PSNI of developments on recent unrest and I repeat calls for calm.

“I am appalled that 41 officers have been injured and my thoughts are with them.

“The people of NI do not support violence or disorder on the streets.”

On Saturday Arlene Foster, the Democratic Unionist party leader, condemned the violence and called for calm after eight police officers were injured by bottles, bricks, and fireworks by loyalists in Belfast on Friday night.

Eight people were arrested following the unrest, with one as young as 13.

“I know that many of our young people are hugely frustrated by the events of this last week but causing injury to police officers will not make things better,” she said.

“I send my strong support to all of the rank-and-file police officers that are on duty over this Easter weekend.”

On Monday, Police Service Northern Ireland Chief Superintendent Davy Beck urged community leaders to help put a stop to the violence.

“Right now as we speak, my officers are in those areas, they’re working hard to provide those police services,” he said.

“But there’s an opportunity to stop this.

“This doesn’t have to be a third night of trouble in the Cloughfern and Newtownabbey/Carrickfergus area.

“I would encourage people with influence in those communities to put a stop to this.”

The Northern Irish assembly is set to be recalled to respond to the deteriorating situation, after an illegal loyalist parade – with some attendees wearing masks – further inflamed the situation on Monday night, with around 30 youths clashing with police.

Justice minister and Alliance leader Naomi Long told the BBC yesterday: “I think the lack of respect for the law being shown by political representatives both in their actions around Bobby Storey’s funeral, but also in their words in terms of how they have responded in terms of the outworking of that process, have helped to fan the flames.”

Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, told Today on BBC Radio 4: “There are young people who are being cynically used by older, more sinister elements of society — more than likely aligned to what we would call paramilitary, but which in anywhere else are criminal organisations and large criminal gangs — and young people are often the cannon fodder they use to go onto the streets to attack police.”

The unrest comes three months into the post-Brexit Northern Irish protocol after fierce debate during Brexit negotiations over the Irish backstop, and fears a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland would jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement.

In February, the EU unilaterally triggered Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol – without informing the Irish government or the British government – over vaccine exports, garnering international condemnation and a swift u-turn by Brussels.