Northern Ireland riots 2021: police blast rioters with water cannon as Joe Biden calls for calm in Belfast

Fireworks and stones were thrown at police on another night of violence in west Belfast.
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Police have blasted rioters with a water cannon as violence continued on the streets of Northern Ireland.

Fireworks and stones were thrown at police by gangs gathered on the nationalist Springfield Road, west Belfast, close to where Wednesday night's riots took place.

The latest night of unrest comes as US President Joe Biden called for calming of tensions, along with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Irish Premier Micheal Martin.

Police have blasted rioters with a water cannon as violence continued on the streets of BelfastPolice have blasted rioters with a water cannon as violence continued on the streets of Belfast
Police have blasted rioters with a water cannon as violence continued on the streets of Belfast

What the Biden administration said

The Biden administration appealed for calm in Northern Ireland and voiced its support for the Brexit protocol.

At a briefing on Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: "We are concerned by the violence in Northern Ireland and we join the British, Irish and Northern Irish leaders in their calls for calm.

"We remain steadfast supporters of a secure and prosperous Northern Ireland in which all communities have a voice and enjoy the gains of the hard-won peace.

"We welcome the provisions in both the EU-UK trade cooperation agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol, which helped protect the gains of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement."

How the violence unfolded on Thursday evening

Police warned rioters to "disperse immediately or the water cannon will be used".

However, those present continued to fire missiles at officers and after several warnings, the water cannon was deployed.

Later in the evening, there were reports that police warned crowds "impact rounds will be fired".

Impact rounds, also known as AEPs or plastic bullets, are not used as a means of crowd control in any part of the UK apart from Northern Ireland, and their use has been condemned by human rights groups.

Six plastic bullets were fired by police during Wednesday night's events.

Some of those present jeered before fleeing as the water jet came closer.

‘Utterly reckless and depressing’

Justice Minister Naomi Long issued a fresh call for calm after what she called "depressing and reckless" scenes.

She tweeted: "More attacks on police, this time from nationalist youths. Utterly reckless and depressing to see more violence at interface areas tonight.

"My heart goes out to those living in the area who are living with this fear and disturbance. This needs to stop now before lives are lost."

Heavy police presence in operation

A heavy police presence was in operation on Thursday night, with water cannon, police dogs and the riot squad in place in a bid to quell another night of unrest in the area.

PSNI officers were seen holding riot shields and being pelted with missiles before causing the youths to flee by charging at them with dogs.

How politicians have reacted

Earlier, the UK Prime Minister and Irish premier made a joint call for calm after days of unrest in Northern Ireland.

Boris Johnson and Taoiseach Micheal Martin spoke over the phone on Thursday about the violent clashes in mainly loyalist areas over the last week.

In a statement, the Irish Government said the two leaders stressed that violence was unacceptable.

"The way forward is through dialogue and working the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement," the statement said.

"They agreed that the two governments would continue to stay in contact."