Bus hijacked and left to freewheel as Belfast violence continues

Belfast: Emergency Stormont meeting after night of violence

The recent violence, largely in pro-British loyalist areas, has flared amid rising tensions over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland and worsening relations between the parties in the Protestant-Catholic power-sharing Belfast government.

The Northern Ireland Executive has condemned "deplorable" riots in which 55 police officers have been injured during more than a week of violence.

Mr Johnson said: "The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality".

People also lobbed bricks, fireworks and gasoline bombs Wednesday night in both directions over a concrete "peace wall" that separates Protestant, British loyalist, and Catholic, Irish nationalist neighbourhoods.

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

During several hours of disorder police officers were attacked, petrol bombs were thrown and a bus was burnt.

Crowds of youths in a pro-British area of Belfast set a hijacked bus on fire and attacked police with stones in the latest of a series of nightly outbreaks of violence that began last week.

The accord ended decades of violence involving Irish republicans, British loyalists and United Kingdom armed forces in which more than 3,000 people died.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's Belfast-based assembly and government held emergency meetings Thursday and called for an end to the violence.

"We should all know that when politics are perceived to fail, those who fill the vacuum cause despair", said Foster, who heads the Northern Ireland government.

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

It was attended by 2,000 mourners - including Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, the Sinn Féin vice-president - at a time when Covid-19 restrictions were in place.

Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster labelled the scenes as "an embarrassment to Northern Ireland".

He pointed to the role of paramilitary groups who he warned were stoking divisions and exploiting young people within loyalist communities, adding: "It would be wrong to attribute what has happened simply to Brexit and the protocol".

The unrest on Wednesday evening was the most serious Northern Ireland has seen in years, Mr Roberts said.

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

Under the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, a de facto border was created in the Irish Sea, with goods entering Northern Ireland from mainland Britain subject to European Union checks, a move which angered unionists, who have accused London of abandoning them.

Unionists says the new checks amount to a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. - something they fear undermines the region's place in the United Kingdom.

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

The pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have also pointed to a decision by police not to prosecute Irish nationalists Sinn Fein for a large funeral previous year that broke COVID-19 regulations.

But Sinn Féin, the SDLP, and the Alliance Party have accused unionist politicians of ramping up rhetoric by calling for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable Simon Byrne to stand down over the police handling of Mr Storey's funeral.