A bus was hijacked and set on fire in Belfast on the sixth consecutive night of violence in Northern Ireland.
The vehicle was set ablaze in an area of intersection between the Nationalist and Unionist communities, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said.
Stones were thrown at police while a press photographer was assaulted in the course of his work on Wednesday night at the junction of Lanark Way and Shankill Road in West Belfast.
Tires and containers were set ablaze near the interface gates on Lanark Way, which open into a wall separating the two communities. PSNI said they had closed the gates and advised people to avoid the area.
Northern Ireland Prime Minister Arlene Foster condemned the attack, tweeting: “There is no justification for violence. It’s wrong and it should end. “
Boris Johnson also condemned the violence. The UK Prime Minister wrote on Twitter: “I am deeply concerned about the scenes of violence in Northern Ireland, especially the attacks on the PSNI which protects the public and businesses, the attacks on a bus driver and the assault on a journalist. The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or crime ”.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney saying: “Calm and positive leadership is needed from everyone.”
Images circulating on Twitter appeared to show the bus being bombarded with gasoline while it was still moving, with a dozen masked people, including some who appeared to be children, cheering as they ran from the scene. The driver was reportedly unhurt.
A photographer was also attacked, tweeting that he had been “jumped from behind by two masked men… one threw me to the ground and crushed @beltel [Belfast Telegraph] cameras ”.
Foster described the attack as “embarrassing” and expressed hope that “the thugs behind it will be brought to justice.”
PSNI Police Chief Simon Byrne, who has received calls for him to resign, said the ongoing street disorder must stop. He tweeted: “I am open to dialogue with anyone who is willing to work with me to solve the problems facing our community. My message to those involved in the violence tonight is to go home before someone is seriously injured, violence is not the answer. “
The loyalist gathering on Lanark Way was organized via social media, and Facebook posts were shared on other platforms. Dozens of young people dressed in dark clothing gathered after 5 p.m., watched by others who appeared to have come for the show. An old woman in a bathrobe arrived.
Some youths set fire in the middle of the road, while others collected stones and distributed gasoline bombs shortly before the attack on the bus.
Youth from the adjacent Springfield Nationalist Highway area had monitored loyalist social media posts and responded with their own barrage of rocks and bottles in a loyal district, prompting more than a dozen police Land Rovers to seal the interface.
“It should be nipped in the bud,” said Cailin McCaffery, 25, a graduate researcher, as black smoke rose above her head. “The fear is that the riots will worsen. We don’t want to relive what our parents went through ”.
Since last Friday, there has been nighttime violence in parts of Northern Ireland, including Belfast, Derry and parts of County Antrim, fueled by anger from loyalists over the recent decision not to prosecute Sinn Féin leaders for attending. to a mass funeral.
The Democratic Unionist party has expressed fury over the decision, and its leader Foster said it reflects a rule for Sinn Féin and another for ordinary voters who have lost loved ones during the pandemic and been unable to attend the funeral.
Others have blamed people’s anger at Brexit, with Stormont Justice Minister Naomi Long saying Boris Johnson’s “dishonesty” over Brexit border controls has inflamed the situation.
Byrne briefed the Northern Ireland Police Board on the violence and riots on Wednesday.
In a statement, NIPB President Doug Garrett said it was “really shocking that in a short space of time 41 officers have suffered injuries” and said it was “undoubtedly disturbing that so many young people have been involved in the attacks. against the police and the consequences that criminalization can have for their lives ”.
Garrett called for “redoubled efforts to defuse tension and continue the dialogue between the community and police officers at all levels of the PSNI.”
In an interview with The Guardian’s Politics Weekly podcast, the European Union ambassador said he understood the “sensitivities” and the “delicate and volatile situation in Northern Ireland”, which he visited last year.
He said the EU was “fully engaged in a constructive way to find solutions to these problems” but had to be “within the limits of the protocol that we agreed on not long ago.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism