Riot police arrive on scene in Belfast as riots erupt for sixth night
Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis is flying to Belfast for talks with political leaders to discuss the violence that has gripped parts of the region over the past week.
He will meet with first minister Arlene Foster, from the DUP, and deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill, from Sinn Fein, on Thursday afternoon, PA reports.
Earlier today, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer called on Boris Johnson to hold cross-party talks aimed at bringing the disorder to an end. He 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 to discuss the violence and the Stormont assembly later passed a motion condemning it.
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.
Brandon Lewis statement: Communities must work together to resolve tension
The Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis has released a statement ahead of his visit to Belfast.
“All communities in Northern Ireland must work together to resolve the tensions that we are currently facing. The people of Northern Ireland deserve better than a continuation of the violence and disorder that we have witnessed in recent days. I know, from my ongoing contact with party leaders, that this is a view that is shared by all. The only way to resolve differences is through dialogue and in that regard we must all lead by example.
Those engaged in this destruction and disorder do not represent Northern Ireland.
I have seen first hand the true spirit of Northern Ireland – the creativity, the optimism and the determination to never return to the conflict and division of the past. We cannot allow that spirit to be crushed by a small minority intent on violence.
The strength of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement lay in providing a framework for all communities in Northern Ireland, through mutual respect and tolerance, to live and work together.
I am aware of the ongoing concerns from some in the unionist and loyalist community over recent months and I have been engaging and listening to those concerns. However, I remain clear that the right way to express concerns or frustrations is through dialogue, engagement, and the democratic process, not through violence or disorder.
Today, I will be meeting with community, faith and political leaders. Following engagement earlier today, I welcome the statement from the Executive and join them in appealing for calm. I will do all I can to continue to facilitate further constructive discussions on the way forward over the coming days. I remain in close contact with the Prime Minister to keep him updated.”
Matt Mathers8 April 2021 14:17
Hong Kong politician Nathan Law granted asylum in UK
Matt Mathers8 April 2021 14:08
Northern Ireland secretary flies to Belfast for talks
The Northern Ireland Secretary is flying to Belfast to hold emergency talks with the main political parties as well as faith and community leaders in an attempt to quell a spate of violence.
Brandon Lewis will meet with First Minister Arlene Foster, from the DUP, and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, from Sinn Fein, on Thursday afternoon, the PA news agency understands.
He was also expected to meet Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken and Alliance party leader Naomi Long following several nights of disorder that have seen dozens of police officers injured.
Sir Keir Starmer earlier urged Boris Johnson to “step up” and convene all-party talks, as he noted Unionist concerns that the Prime Minister’s Brexit promises are not being kept.
The Labour leader, a former human rights adviser to the Northern Ireland Policing Board, said there is “no justification” for the rioting.
Matt Mathers8 April 2021 14:05
Alliance Party rejects allegations of ‘two-tier’ policing
The Alliance Party has rejected loyalist accusations of “two-tier” policing in Northern Ireland.
Addressing the assembly, MLA Kellie Armstrong said it was time to “knock on the head” the idea that the PSNI gives preferential treatment to the nationalist community.
“This is the same police force that has had 55 officers hurt. These are the people who are trying to protect us,” she said. “At a time of a health pandemic…we need our police,” she added.
Matt Mathers8 April 2021 13:42
We need to understand reasons behind violence, former UUP leader says
During the assembly debate earlier today, the Ulster Unionist Party’s former leader Mike Nesbitt called for a renewed pledge of support for the Good Friday Agreement – from both communities.
He said “nothing excuses” the violence but that it was important for Northern Ireland’s political leaders to “look for explanations for why this violence is occurring”.
“There is another reason I have heard to explain the violence which cannot be excused. That is, a sense of alienation in the communities where the violence is taking place.”
Matt Mathers8 April 2021 13:32
Stormont assembly passes motion condemning violence
Matt Mathers8 April 2021 13:22
Police update on Belfast violence last night
PSNI have issued an update on the scenes in Belfast last night.
Assistant Chief Constable John Roberts said there were upwards of 600 people present during the riot and several explosive projectiles were thrown.
ACC Roberts went on to appeal to the parents of the teenagers involved: “Whilst many of those involved in the disorder last night were adults, it is clear there were many young people involved.
“Young people were being encouraged to commit criminal acts by adults, who stood by clapping and encouraging the violence.
“There is absolutely no justification for this. Young people need to quickly realise that by engaging in this type of behaviour they are not only risking their safety, they are also risking their futures.
“Today I am appealing to parents and guardians please speak to your children. To those community, civic and political leaders please exert whatever influence you have to quell this disturbing, unnecessary and unwanted violence.”
Liam James8 April 2021 13:19
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