UK PM Johnson says deeply concerned by Northern Ireland violence

Yolanda Curtis
April 8, 2021

A post-Brexit U.K. -EU trade deal has imposed customs and border checks on some goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. The arrangement was created to avoid checks between Northern Ireland and Ireland because an open Irish border has helped underpin the peace process built.

The disorder follows similar attacks on police and riots in Belfast and elsewhere in Northern Ireland in the past week.

The violence on Wednesday took place near the Shankill Road in west Belfast near a so-called "peace wall" that divides the community from the Irish nationalist stronghold of the Falls Road, where groups of youths also gathered.

A bus was hijacked and set on fire and a press photographer assaulted by two masked men.

"Whether you are a political leader, whether you are a community leader, you have a responsibility now to ensure that 13 and 14-year-olds - and indeed people older than that - are not putting themselves in danger, but more importantly, are not involved in the kind of disgraceful scenes we saw last night, where buses were set on fire and where journalists were attacked - we need to be careful that this doesn't escalate any further", he told Newstalk Breakfast.

A man walks past the burned out bus on Thursday
A man walks past the burned out bus on Thursday

It is "gravely concerned by the scenes we have all witnessed on our streets, including those (in west Belfast) last night", it said in a statement.

Britain's economic split from the European Union at the end of 2020 has disturbed the political balance in Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom where some people identify as British and some as Irish.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the unrest, and Northern Ireland's Belfast-based government was holding an emergency meeting Thursday on the violence.

We should all know that when politics are perceived to fail, those who fill the vacuum cause despair.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, of Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, called the violence "utterly deplorable".

Sinn Fein and others have accused the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of First Minister Arlene Foster of stoking tensions with their staunch opposition to the new trading barriers that many unionists feel erases part of their identity.

"But the paramilitary godfathers behind this really don't care; they will exploit these young people for their own ends".

The situation in Northern Ireland has been destabilized by Britain's departure from the European Union - after nearly 50 years of membership - that became final on December 31.

While politicians from all sides condemned the clashes on Wednesday, Northern Ireland's main governing parties blamed one other.

Alliance party leader and justice minister, Naomi Long, said there had been "inflammatory rhetoric with threats of renewed violence bandied around by people who claim to be trying to lead others away from the violent past".

"The only way forward is to address issues of concern through peaceful and democratic means".

The DUP in turn have pointed to a decision by police not to prosecute Irish nationalists Sinn Fein for a large funeral previous year that broke COVID-19 regulations.

The reason behind the unrest has largely been attributed to frustration over the recent decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Féin over alleged public health breaches after they attended the funeral of Bobby Storey.

Other reports by iNewsToday