Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive is holding an emergency meeting in Stormont after another night of riots marked parts of Belfast and exacerbated a political crisis.
Simon Byrne, the chief of police for the Northern Ireland Police Service, briefed party leaders on the security situation on Thursday ahead of a debate in the assembly, which has been pulled from its Easter break.
There were reports that the loyalists are planning further protests this weekend, a prospect that will alarm the British and Irish governments.
Arlene Foster, the prime minister and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), spoke with Byrne, marking a sea change in her refusal to meet him earlier this week despite escalating violence.
The DUP has demanded the resignation of the police chief for monitoring Republican funerals, but Foster did not repeat that demand in a tweet after the meeting. He condemned the violence as unjustified and unjustifiable. “Those responsible must be subject to the full rigor of the law,” he said.
Seven officers were injured Wednesday night when masked youths in the Shankill Road loyalist area threw petrol bombs and stones and sent an empty and burning bus down the street. Kevin Scott, a photographer for the Belfast Telegraph, was assaulted and his camera smashed.
Youths on the adjacent Nationalist Springfield Road fired missiles over a “wall of peace” to the loyalist side, triggering a volley in response. The mobs clashed when one of the doors in the wall opened and caught fire.
“Calm is needed on BOTH sides of the doors before we are faced with a tragedy. These are scenes that we hoped would have been limited to history, ”said the Police Federation. tweeted.
At least 55 police officers have been injured during seven consecutive nights of rioting, with trouble switching between Belfast, Derry, Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus.
The anger of those loyal to the police, the perception of nationalist ancestry and the fallout from Brexit, along with criminal activity by gangs, have fueled the unrest. It is one of the worst riots since the 2013 flag protests and comes as Northern Ireland prepares to mark the 100th anniversary of its founding dating back to the partition of Ireland in 1921.
Unionist parties have been accused of tacitly fomenting the riots by demanding the resignation of the chief of police over the alleged favoritism of the force towards Sinn Féin during the surveillance of Republican funerals, in particular that of Bobby Storey, which attracted some 2,000 people, including the leaders of Sinn Féin. last June during confinement restrictions.
Critics have accused the DUP of stoking the controversy to deflect the ire of loyalists over the party’s role in creating a commercial border in the Irish Sea. Justice Minister Naomi Long of the Alliance party said “dishonesty” over Brexit had fueled resentment.
Young people interviewed during the protests in Newtownabbey and Shankill Road on Thursday cited the maritime border, alleged police bias and the feeling that protesters had become second-class citizens as the reasons they carried stones and bottles. In some cases, older men appeared to be leading them, but it is unclear whether the main paramilitary groups were involved.
The Irish and British governments expressed grave concern about the attacks on the police, the bus driver and the photographer. “The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or crime,” Boris Johnson. tweeted.
Some in Westminster urged the prime minister to visit Northern Ireland. Louise Haigh, Northern Ireland’s shadow secretary, said Johnson needed to step forward to protect a “fragile” peace process.
“This moment demands leadership. The prime minister should convene inter-party talks in Northern Ireland and engage with the joint custodians of the Belfast / Good Friday agreement, the Irish government to find solutions and address the tensions. “
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, said political leaders must come together to defuse tensions.
“This must stop before someone is killed or seriously injured,” he said. he told RTE. “These are scenes that we haven’t seen in Northern Ireland for a long time, they are scenes that a lot of people thought were consigned to history and I think there must be a collective effort to try to defuse the tension.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism