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Northern Ireland leaders call for calm after night of violence

Northern Ireland leaders call for calm after night of violence

Young people set fire to a hijacked bus and threw petrol bombs at Belfast police on at least the fourth night of serious violence in a week in Northern Ireland, where Britain’s exit from the European Union disrupted a difficult political balance.

People also threw bricks, fireworks and petrol bombs on Wednesday night back and forth at a concrete “peace wall” that separates the Protestant, British Loyalist and Catholic, Irish Nationalist neighborhoods.

Northern Ireland Police Service Deputy Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said several hundred people gathered on either side of a door in the wall, where “crowds … were committing serious crimes criminal offenses, both by attacking the police and by attacking each other “.

He said a total of 55 police officers were injured during several nights of disorder.

Recent violence, largely in loyalist and Protestant areas, has erupted amid mounting tensions over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland and deteriorating relations between the parties in the Protestant-Catholic government of Belfast, which shares power. The economic separation of Britain and the EU last year upset the political balance in Northern Ireland, where some people identify as British and want to stay in the UK, while others do consider themselves Irish and seek unity with the neighboring Republic of Ireland, which is a member of the EU.

A man walks past the burnt-out bus on Thursday. (Peter Morrison / The Associated Press)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the unrest and the Belfast-based government of Northern Ireland was holding an emergency meeting on the violence on Thursday.

Johnson called for calm, saying: “The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or crime.”

Northern Ireland’s Prime Minister Arlene Foster of the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party and Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill of the Irish Nationalist Sinn Fein Party have both condemned the disorder and attacks on police .

Easter violence

The latest disruption follows the Easter long weekend unrest in pro-British union areas of Belfast and Londonderry and surrounding areas, also known as Derry, which saw cars set on fire and projectiles and guns Gasoline bombs thrown at police officers.

Authorities have accused banned paramilitary groups of inciting youth to wreak havoc.

“We have seen young people participate in serious disturbances and commit serious criminal offenses, and they have been supported and encouraged, and the actions have been orchestrated by adults at times,” said Roberts, the senior police official. .

Border implications of the trade agreement

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, because an open Irish border helped support the peace process built 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 unionists say the new controls amount to a new border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK They fear it will undermine the region’s place in the UK and could strengthen ties with the Republic of Ireland, strengthening calls for a united Ireland.

Britain and the EU have expressed concerns about how the deal is working, and the Democratic Unionist Party, which heads the government of Northern Ireland, has called for its scrapping.

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