There have been six consecutive nights of unrest in Belfast, which has led to a bus being set on fire and several officers sustaining injuries.
Brexit was expected to flair up tensions in Northern Ireland. Predictably this has been the case, as economic barriers have been put in place and damaged livelihoods. In response, violent riots have broken out in Belfast.
On top of the political situation, coronavirus restrictions have also reportedly caused tensions to rise. Specifically, the handling of restrictions at Republican Bobby Storey’s funeral which Sinn Fein managed to breach.
Moreover, there have been calls for 24 members of the Sinn Fein party to be arrested after breaking the rules.
Unionists have been held responsible for the sustained riots. However, this is being disputed as the blame is attached to opposing parties.
What is being said?
Belfast Live reported that Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly has blamed the DUP for the riots:
“The disturbances in loyalist areas across the north are an outworking of the DUP’s rhetoric and undermining of the PSNI and criminal justice system.”
They added: “By their words and actions they have sent a very dangerous message to young people in loyalist areas.”
However, DUP MP Carla Lockhart has placed the blame on Sinn Fenn: “Sinn Fein’s arrogant disregard for the Covid regulations is to blame for this political crisis.
“Law and order is the cornerstone of a civilised society. When there is a double standard by the police, then that damages respect for the law.”
While the blame is being passed, violence has repeatedly broken out.
What has happened?
Riots have taken place in parts of Belfast, Carrickfergus, Newtonabbey, Derry/Londonderry and other parts of Northern Ireland. These violent protests have led to several officers being injured.
Nonetheless, one of the most striking images has been of a bus set alight.
Journalist, Patricia Devlin detailed the situation on Twitter:
“New footage shows moment loyalist rioters hijack bus in west Belfast. One man can be heard shouting, ‘Tell the driver to drive it down… where’s the driver?’ Another shouts, ‘petrol bomb it’. Rioter in driver seat releases brake before getting off. Bus seems to have free rolled.”
“Passengers got off just before this and driver too, I’m told.”
An image of the bus can be seen below:
What will happen next?
It has been confirmed that COVID-19 related charges will not be pressed against those at Bobby Storey’s funeral.
With that said, action is being taken to stop the riots. An emergency meeting of Northern Ireland has been called for today. Many will hope that this meeting formulates a way to stop the violence.
British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, offered his thoughts on the situation:
“The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality”
He also went on to add that he is “Deeply concerned.”
Let’s hope the violence ends soon.
Images via Alamy