On Wednesday 7 April, a bus was hijacked and set on fire in Belfast, following several days of violence across Derry, Carrickfergus and Belfast, with over 40 police officers now injured in confrontations involving petrol bombs and cars being set alight.
Last night marked the sixth night of unrest and violence in Northern Ireland. Tensions have been rising in Northern Ireland due to the growing frustration and anger over trade deals separating the region from the rest of the UK.
‘This has to stop’
A spontaneous act of solidarity has occurred at Belfast City Hall for the driver of the bus that was hijacked and set alight in the city on Wednesday evening.
Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) Assistant General Secretary Owen Reidy said it was a demonstration on behalf of the entire trade union movement to support the driver, who has been left shaken by the incident.
Reidy said: “Theirs is an act of generosity towards their fellow bus driver who was shockingly attacked last evening and towards the brave police officers and journalists who were alo assaulted while doing their job and serving the community.
“Workers across Northern Ireland will not accept being the subject of attacks when going about their duties. The Translink workers are standing up and proclaiming this loudly.
“This has to stop and it has to stop now. All public representatives from across the community and every person of goodwill and influence in interface areas have to make clear that all such protests end before we have another night of violence.
“Young people are being treated as cannon fodder. Someone is going to get killed.
“The best public service any decent person of influence can do right now is to prevent the spiral deepening. Politicians need to come together, work together and make politics work in the interest of the entire community.”
‘Gravely concerned by the scenes’
Ministers in the Stormont Executive have condemned the violence and rioting that has occurred in Northern Ireland, prompting united calls for calm to be restored.
The Northern Ireland Executive issued a joint statement following a meeting of the power sharing administration to discuss the escalating public disorder.
Assembly members also united to condemn the violence, unanimously passing an Alliance motion after being recalled to discuss the scenes.
Earlier, ministers were given an update by PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne.
In a statement, the Executive said: “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 out 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.”
The Stormont Assembly was recalled from Easter recess for an emergency sitting on Thursday to debate the violence.
The Assembly was recalled following a motion put forward by Alliance leader Naomi Long calling for MLAs to unequivocally condemn those involved and support the rule of law.
Speaking during the Assembly debate, DUP leader Arlene Foster said the scenes witnessed were “totally unacceptable”.
The First Minister said the injuries to police officers, harm to Northern Ireland’s image and people’s property has taken the region backwards.
Speaking remotely, Foster said: “Today is not the time to rehearse the arguments in the last few weeks. We should all know that when politics are perceived to fail, those who fill the vacuum cause despair.
“Northern Ireland faces deep policities challenges ahead.”
Foster added that the future requires political leadership.