LONDON (AP) – Rioters set fire to a hijacked bus and threw petrol bombs at Belfast police during the fourth night of violence in a week in Northern Ireland, where Brexit upset a difficult political balance.
Youths threw projectiles and gasoline bombs at police Wednesday night in the protestant Shankill Road, as rioters threw objects back and forth over the concrete “peace wall” separating the road of Shankill from a neighboring Irish Nationalist area.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the unrest and the Belfast-based government of Northern Ireland was holding an emergency meeting on Thursday over the riots.
Johnson called for calm, saying “the way to resolve differences is through dialogue and not through violence or crime”. Northern Ireland’s Prime Minister Arlene Foster of the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party and Irish Nationalist Sinn Fein Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill both condemned the disorder and attacks on police.
Recent violence, much of it in pro-British loyalist areas, has erupted amid mounting tensions over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland and deteriorating relations between the parties in the Belfast government , which shares Protestant and Catholic power.
The latest disruption followed unrest over the Easter long weekend in and around trade union areas of Belfast and Londonderry, also known as Derry, which saw cars set on fire and projectiles and petrol bombs launched at police officers.
Authorities have accused banned paramilitary groups of inciting youth to wreak havoc.
The economic separation of Britain and the European Union at the end of 2020 upset the political balance in Northern Ireland, a part of the UK where some people identify as British and others as Irish .
A new trade deal between the UK and the EU imposed customs and border controls on some goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK The deal was designed to avoid checks between the Northern Ireland and Ireland, an EU member, because an open Irish border has helped support the peace process based on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
The deal ended decades of violence involving Irish Republicans, British loyalists and the British armed forces in which more than 3,000 people have died. But trade unionists say the new controls amount to a new border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK
Unionists are also angry at the police decision not to prosecute politicians in Sinn Fein who attended the funeral of a former Irish Republican Army commander in June. Bobby Storey’s funeral drew large crowds, despite coronavirus rules banning mass gatherings.
Major Unionist parties have called for the resignation of Northern Ireland’s police chief over the controversy, saying he has lost the trust of their community.