Northern Ireland riots 2021: why has there been violence in Belfast, Carrickfergus and Derry?

Northern Ireland saw its sixth consecutive night of violence on Wednesday, April 7.

A bus was hijacked and set on fire in Belfast last night – April 7 – marking the sixth night of unrest and violence in Northern Ireland.

The bus was attacked in an intersectional area between nationalist and unionist community, with stones thrown at police and a press photographer assaulted.

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The incident follows 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.

Burnt out cars can be seen at the Cloughfern roundabout junction following overnight Loyalist violence on April 4, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Loyalist unrest and disorder in the province continues as a result of the implementation of the so called Irish sea border.

The Northern Ireland executive will meet on Thursday, April 8 in light of the violence, with Northern Ireland’s first minister, Arlene Foster, tweeting last night:

“There is no justification for violence. It is wrong and should stop.”

Why is there unrest in Northern Ireland?

Tensions have been rising in Northern Ireland for some time thanks to growing frustration and anger over trade deals separating the region from the rest of the UK.

The Northern Ireland Protocol, an element of the Brexit deal relating to Northern Ireland, has already caused some disruption at ports.

The flames were fanned further after it emerged last week that Sinn Féin politicians who attended the funeral of republican Bobby Storey would not be prosecuted by the PSNI in spite of the event contravening current coronavirus rules.

In total, 24 Sinn Féin politicians attended, including Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill.

In the wake of the scandal, all major unionist parties called for PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne to resign - saying communities have lost confidence in his authority.

In County Antrim, recent drug raids by the police against the South East Antrim Ulster Defence Association (UDA) have also further exacerbated tensions.

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What have politicians and leaders said?

Darrin Jones, the Derry & Strabane district commander, has said:

“Last night we saw further disorder in our city during which our officers came under attack again. Again we saw disgraceful scenes during which cars were set on fire and property damaged.

“This is reckless and criminal behaviour, and it has to stop. It is absolutely appalling and achieves nothing except harm to our community. I will continue to appeal to those in our community with influence to do what they can to stop this senseless behaviour.”

Arlene Foster, the first minister, accused “malign and criminal elements” of whipping up violence among young people.

On Saturday, April 3, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP Gregory Campbell also urged calm.

"Those attacking the police should stop," he said. "Rioting and injuring rank and file officers will only result in young people being criminalised."

DUP MLA Christopher Stalford said "cool heads must prevail", adding that if people feel "angry or frustrated" over issues surrounding the funeral or the NI Protocol, they should not riot but “get politically active”.

Sinn Féin MLA and policing board member Gerry Kelly, meanwhile, has accused unionist leadership in Northern Ireland of fanning the flames of violence.

"There is a responsibility in the unionist leadership, political leadership, to show leadership here and not be winding the situation up," he told the BBC.

"First of all over the hard Brexit that they created and then they're trying to blame everything on the decision that was made recently.

"This calling for everybody in high office who they disagree with to resign and demanding their resignation also winds the situation up as well.”

Police officials have called on those out on the streets to halt the violence.