Belfast riots news – live: ‘Absent’ Boris Johnson must call talks, says Starmer after seven officers injured

Riot police arrive on scene in Belfast as riots erupt for sixth night

Boris Johnson must immediately hold cross-party talks aimed at bringing an end to the violence that has gripped some parts of Northern Ireland over the past week, Keir Starmer has said.

The Labour Party leader 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 for a briefing on the violence and the Stormont Assembly debated a motion to condemn recent scenes of disorder in mainly loyalist areas.

Violent scenes including attacks on police, petrol bombings and rioting have taken place repeatedly on the streets of Belfast and Derry throughout the past week.

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.

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‘No excuse or justification for violence’, Northern Ireland justice minister says

Justice minister Naomi Long has said there is “no excuse or justification” for the violence witnessed across parts of Northern Ireland over the past week.

Opening up a debate in the Assembly this morning, the Alliance Party leader said the disorder was “nothing short of disgraceful”.

“The scenes we have witnessed of people forced from their cars, bus drivers and passengers ordered off public transport and vehicles set alight are nothing short of disgraceful. Anyone who tries to excuse those scenes…should be ashamed,” she said.

She added: “It is a mercy that no one has lost their life as a result of this appalling violence”.

Matt Mathers8 April 2021 12:10

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Loyalist anger at post-Brexit trade rules among factors in disorder

The street disorder that has flared in various parts of Northern Ireland for more than a week can be attributed to a multitude of factors, writes the Press Association’s Ireland editor David Young.

At its heart is loyalist anger at post-Brexit trading arrangements that have created economic barriers between the region and the rest of the UK.

For loyalism, Brexit’s Northern Ireland protocol has undermined their place in the Union.

But it took an event unrelated to the Irish Sea border furore to set a match to resentment that has been simmering since the consequences of exiting the EU became a reality at the start of January.

Matt Mathers8 April 2021 11:51

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Northern Ireland executive condems violence

The executive met this morning to discuss the violence.

Here’s its full statement:

“We are gravely concerned by the scenes we have all witnessed on our streets over the last week, including those at the Lanark Way interface last night. Attacks on police officers, public services and communities are deplorable and they must stop.

Destruction, violence and the threat of violence are completely unacceptable and unjustifiable, no matter what concerns may exist in communities.

Those who would seek to use and abuse our children and young people to carry out these attacks have no place in our society.

While our political positions are very different on many issues, we are all united in our support for law and order and we collectively state our support for policing and for the police officers who have been putting themselves in harm’s way to protect others.

We, and our departments, will continue to work together to maximise the support we can give to communities and the PSNI to prevent further violence and unrest.”

Matt Mathers8 April 2021 11:41

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Starmer urges ‘absent’ PM to convene all-party talks over Northern Ireland

Keir Starmer has called on Boris Johnson to convene all-party talks to bring an end to violent scenes in Northern Ireland, accusing the prime minister of being “absent” during several nights of disorder which have left 55 police officers injured.

Our politics editor Andrew Woodcock will have more on this breaking story as it develops:

Matt Mathers8 April 2021 11:32

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‘Likely’ that paramilitaries were involved in violence, PSNI says

Early assessments suggest that paramilitaries were involved in directing some of the violence witnessed in Belfast on Wednesday night, the PSNI has said.

Assistant chief constable Jonathan Roberts told BBC Radio Ulster it “clear there was a degree of organisation” of the violence.

“We saw young people participating in serious disorder and committing serious criminal offences, and they were supported and encouraged, and the actions were orchestrated by adults at certain times”.

He added: “It’s early to indicate whether or not any proscribed organisations were involved but it is our assessment that is a likely situation.”

Matt Mathers8 April 2021 11:08

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Violence being ‘directed by adults’, claims MP

Some of the violence seen in parts of Northern Ireland over the past week is being “directed by adults”, an MP has claimed.

Alliance Party deputy leader and North Down MP Stephen Farry told the BBC ‘s Nolan show the disorder “is not spontaneous”.

“Clearly there were adults who were directing the activity,” he said. ” It points to the fact young people are being manipulated into this and that is always something which is of huge concern.”

(PA)

Matt Mathers8 April 2021 10:49

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Both sides ‘committed serious criminal offences’

Both sides of the community in Northern Ireland “committed serious criminal offences” during disorder in Belfast last night, the PSNI has said.

Chief constable Jonathan Roberts said hundreds of people were involved in the clashes on either side of the gates at Lanark Way in the Shankill and Springfield Road area.

Missiles, fireworks, petrol bombs and bricks were thrown, he said.

Two adults have been arrested.

Matt Mathers8 April 2021 10:33

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Sinn Fein president meets with PSNI chief constable

Matt Mathers8 April 2021 10:22

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Attack on Belfast bus was ‘attempted murder’, DUP politician says

An attack on a bus in Belfast on Wednesday night amounts to “attempted murder”, a DUP politician has said.

Gordon Lyons MLA told BBC Radio Ulster: “The people that were doing what they were doing last night were involved in vandalism and attempted murder. It is quite clear there were lawbreakers there.”

(REUTERS)

Matt Mathers8 April 2021 10:14

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Northern Ireland violence was ‘foreseeable’

The unrest seen in Northern Ireland across recent nights has been bubbling under for a long time, and was very foreseeable, writes Ben Kelly.

Northern Ireland’s peace is built upon invisible borders and blurred identities. The Brexit project which required a trade border and relished in the sharpening of identities was never going to work out well in our contested society, but concerns were dismissed as ‘Project Fear’ by those whose voices are now oddly silent.

That’s why the majority of people in Northern Ireland rejected Brexit. Even so, many unionists and loyalists backed it – and are now feeling betrayed that Boris Johnson and the EU went on to impose that required border in the Irish Sea, cutting them off economically and symbolically from the rest of the UK. They have conveniently forgotten that their own representatives in the DUP actually turned down a Brexit deal which would have avoided this situation.

On top of this, unionists in Northern Ireland are facing other uncomfortable truths – namely that they no longer enjoy a political majority anywhere, and that the sands of power are shifting beneath them. The feeling that Sinn Fein got away with their major Covid breach at a republican funeral last year poured fuel on the fire last week, and added to an increasing perception that a major reversal has happened; that unionists are now being treated as second-class citizens.

Equally, it cannot be ignored that much of the unrest among loyalists is being stirred up not by the politically disaffected, but by mere criminal gangs – and that older figures are exploiting the youth of their own communities by encouraging them to engage in self-defeating violence.

Leaders across these islands must work together and decide on how to respond to the very real issues on the ground in Northern Ireland, before things spiral further out of control.

Matt Mathers8 April 2021 10:03

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