Lots of young people in a pro-British area of Belfast set fire to a hijacked bus and attacked police with stones most recently in a series of outbreaks of violence each night that began last week.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “deeply concerned” about the violence, which has injured dozens of police in recent days as protesters set fire to cars and hurled petrol bombs at police.
The violence comes amid growing frustration among many in the pro-British trade union community over new trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain that were due to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.
I am deeply concerned about the scenes of violence in Northern Ireland, in particular attacks on PSNI that protect the public and businesses, attacks on a bus driver and an attack by a journalist. The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or crime.
– Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 7, 2021
The British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has also pointed to a decision by the police not to prosecute Irish nationalists Sinn Fein for a major funeral last year that violated the COVID-19 regulations.
Sinn Fein, in turn, has accused the DUP of straining tensions with its strong opposition to the new trade arrangements and their call in recent days for the region’s police chief to resign.
Police in Northern Ireland have said some of the violence was influenced by “criminal elements” who helped organize the attacks.
This is not a protest. This is vandalism and attempted murder. These actions do not represent trade unionism or loyalty. They are an embarrassment to Northern Ireland and only serve to draw focus from the real criminals in Sinn Fein. My thoughts are with the bus driver. https://t.co/2JRcOb6s8C
– Arlene Foster #WeWillMeetAgain (@DUPleader) April 7, 2021
The violence on Wednesday took place near Shankill Road in western Belfast near a so-called “peace wall” that separates the community from the Irish nationalist stronghold Falls Road, where groups of young people also gathered.
The walls and fence were built between the two communities to prevent collisions during three decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, which largely ended with a 1998 peace agreement.
“I am deeply concerned about the scenes of violence in Northern Ireland,” Johnson wrote in a Twitter post. “The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or crime.”
The leaders of Northern Ireland’s largest political parties, Sinn Fein and the DUP, both condemned the violence and pointed in particular to the bus creation and an attack on a photojournalist from the Belfast Telegraph.
“These actions do not represent trade unionism or loyalty. They are an embarrassment to Northern Ireland,” DUP leader Arlene Foster wrote in a Twitter post that went on to describe rivals Sinn Fein as “the real criminals.”