Riot police arrive on scene in Belfast as riots erupt for sixth night
Boris Johnson must immediately hold cross-party talks aimed at bringing an end to the violence that has gripped some parts of Northern Ireland over the past week, Keir Starmer has said.
The Labour Party leader accused the prime minister of being “absent” during several consecutive nights of disorder that has left 55 police officers injured.
The Northern Ireland executive met this morning for a briefing on the violence and the Stormont Assembly debated a motion to condemn recent scenes of disorder in mainly loyalist areas.
Violent scenes including attacks on police, petrol bombings and rioting have taken place repeatedly on the streets of Belfast and Derry throughout the past week.
The unrest has been attributed to tension in loyalist communities over the Northern Ireland protocol on Brexit – which has created economic barriers between the region and the rest of the UK – and the police’s handling of alleged coronavirus regulation breaches by Sinn Fein at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey.
The violence continued on Wednesday night, when a bus was set on fire, a press photographer assaulted and clashes between loyalists and nationalists at peace line street that links the Shankill Road with the Springfield Road in west Belfast.
Northern Ireland violence: A timeline of the clashes erupting in Belfast and Derry
Timeline here of recent events leading up to the outbreak of violence over the past week.
Joe Sommerlad has taken a look back to January:
Liam James8 April 2021 13:01
Sinn Fein’s O’Neill: ‘Miracle no one has been killed’
Deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Fein followed Arlene Foster. Speaking from the chamber she hailed this morning’s emergency meeting of the Northern Ireland Executive for projecting a “united front”:
“What we saw last night at Lanark Way interface, was I think a very dangerous escalation of events of recent days and it is utterly deplorable,” she said.
“As we speak here today, 55 police officers have been injured and I want to start my remarks by sending solidarity to those officers and their families at this very difficult time.
“I am glad to say to this Assembly that the Executive met this morning. Our words are very powerful and I think it is very important at this time that the Executive has sent out that united front.
“As political leaders we must stand united in appealing to all concerned to refrain from violence and further threats. Nobody could fail to be alarmed to the fact that these are young people, children as young as 13, involved in the rioting.
“It is not right, it is dangerous, it is unacceptable and it is a miracle that as we stand here today no one has been killed.
“What we need to do is focus together, to work together and say there is room for everyone at the table. However there isn’t any room for armed gangs.”
Liam James8 April 2021 12:49
When politics fail, ‘destruction and despair’ take place, says Foster
“We should all know well that when politics fail, or are perceived to be failing in Northern Ireland, those who fill the vacuum offer destruction and despair,” Arlene Foster continued.
“Political problems require political solutions never street violence. Collectively we must work through those challenges. A stable and prosperous Norhern Ireland requires a solution to all our challenges.”
Liam James8 April 2021 12:32
Arlene Foster: Violent scenes ‘take us backwards’
Addressing the chamber virtually due to illness, first minister Arlene Foster welcomed the motion and condemned the violence seen in loyalist areas.
“The scenes we have seen over the last evening and in previous evenings in various parts of Northern Ireland, are totally unacceptable,” she said.
“Just as it was wrong in the past and it was never justified, so it is wrong now and can never be justified. The injuries to front line officers, victims terrorised, damage to people’s property, the harm to Northern Irleland’s image, in this, our centenary year, has taken us backwards.
“We are indebeted to the police officers who stand between order and those who prefer anarchy. Rioting, criminality and wanton destruction destroys lives, livelihoods and brings fear and misery to local communities.”
Liam James8 April 2021 12:25
‘No excuse or justification for violence’, Northern Ireland justice minister says
Justice minister Naomi Long has said there is “no excuse or justification” for the violence witnessed across parts of Northern Ireland over the past week.
Opening up a debate in the Assembly this morning, the Alliance Party leader said the disorder was “nothing short of disgraceful”.
“The scenes we have witnessed of people forced from their cars, bus drivers and passengers ordered off public transport and vehicles set alight are nothing short of disgraceful. Anyone who tries to excuse those scenes…should be ashamed,” she said.
She added: “It is a mercy that no one has lost their life as a result of this appalling violence”.
Matt Mathers8 April 2021 12:10
Loyalist anger at post-Brexit trade rules among factors in disorder
The street disorder that has flared in various parts of Northern Ireland for more than a week can be attributed to a multitude of factors, writes the Press Association’s Ireland editor David Young.
At its heart is loyalist anger at post-Brexit trading arrangements that have created economic barriers between the region and the rest of the UK.
For loyalism, Brexit’s Northern Ireland protocol has undermined their place in the Union.
But it took an event unrelated to the Irish Sea border furore to set a match to resentment that has been simmering since the consequences of exiting the EU became a reality at the start of January.
Matt Mathers8 April 2021 11:51
Northern Ireland executive condems violence
The executive met this morning to discuss the violence.
Here’s its full statement:
“We are gravely concerned by the scenes we have all witnessed on our streets over the last week, including those at the Lanark Way interface last night. Attacks on police officers, public services and communities are deplorable and they must stop.
Destruction, violence and the threat of violence are completely unacceptable and unjustifiable, no matter what concerns may exist in communities.
Those who would seek to use and abuse our children and young people to carry out these attacks have no place in our society.
While our political positions are very different on many issues, we are all united in our support for law and order and we collectively state our support for policing and for the police officers who have been putting themselves in harm’s way to protect others.
We, and our departments, will continue to work together to maximise the support we can give to communities and the PSNI to prevent further violence and unrest.”
Matt Mathers8 April 2021 11:41
Starmer urges ‘absent’ PM to convene all-party talks over Northern Ireland
Keir Starmer has called on Boris Johnson to convene all-party talks to bring an end to violent scenes in Northern Ireland, accusing the prime minister of being “absent” during several nights of disorder which have left 55 police officers injured.
Our politics editor Andrew Woodcock will have more on this breaking story as it develops:
Matt Mathers8 April 2021 11:32
‘Likely’ that paramilitaries were involved in violence, PSNI says
Early assessments suggest that paramilitaries were involved in directing some of the violence witnessed in Belfast on Wednesday night, the PSNI has said.
Assistant chief constable Jonathan Roberts told BBC Radio Ulster it “clear there was a degree of organisation” of the violence.
“We saw young people participating in serious disorder and committing serious criminal offences, and they were supported and encouraged, and the actions were orchestrated by adults at certain times”.
He added: “It’s early to indicate whether or not any proscribed organisations were involved but it is our assessment that is a likely situation.”
Matt Mathers8 April 2021 11:08
Violence being ‘directed by adults’, claims MP
Some of the violence seen in parts of Northern Ireland over the past week is being “directed by adults”, an MP has claimed.
Alliance Party deputy leader and North Down MP Stephen Farry told the BBC ‘s Nolan show the disorder “is not spontaneous”.
“Clearly there were adults who were directing the activity,” he said. ” It points to the fact young people are being manipulated into this and that is always something which is of huge concern.”
Matt Mathers8 April 2021 10:49