BELFAST STREET VIOLENCE: Executive to hold emergency meeting

Brandon Lewis

Belfast: Emergency Stormont meeting after night of violence

I am deeply concerned by the scenes of violence in Northern Ireland, especially attacks on PSNI who are protecting the public and businesses, attacks on a bus driver and the assault of a journalist.

The police said several hundred people threw petrol bombs in both directions at a "peace wall" interface between the loyalist Shankill Road and the nationalist Springfield Road.

Weir's comments come at a tense time in Northern Ireland, with repeated outbreaks of violence in loyalist areas of the province over a number of consecutive nights. It also asks the assembly to condemn "without equivocation those involved" and to reaffirm the assembly's "full commitment to support for policing and for the rule of law".

Authorities in Northern Ireland sought to restore calm Thursday after Protestant and Catholic youths in Belfast hurled bricks, fireworks and gasoline bombs at police and each other.

"All communities in Northern Ireland must work together to resolve the tensions that we are now facing", said Britain's Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis in a statement, per Reuters.

But Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said Wednesday's mayhem "was at a scale we have not seen in recent years".

Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken said the riots are "completely unacceptable" and condemned "organised criminal gangs bringing out children, young people and others to commit acts of destruction".

Mr Lewis is expected to urge the main political parties to try to resolve tensions which erupted last week after the decision not to prosecute 24 members of Sinn Fein, including deputy first minister Michelle O'Neill, who attended an IRA funeral in an alleged breach of lockdown rules.

She tweeted: "The Executive will meet tomorrow morning to be briefed on the violence and street disorder which is causing huge distress in local communities at this time".

A post-Brexit U.K. -EU trade deal has imposed customs and border checks on some goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. The arrangement was created to avoid checks between Northern Ireland and Ireland because an open Irish border has helped underpin the peace process built.

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster has branded the violence "vandalism and attempted murder".

However, its implementation has to date proved contentious and problematic, with the new regulatory and customs processes now required to bring goods into Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom, triggering lengthy delays at the province's ports, while also sparking growing unrest among unionists and loyalists at the presence of an Irish Sea trading border. "They. only serve to take the focus off the real law breakers in Sinn Féin", she posted on social media.

But unionists say the new checks amount to a new border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. They fear that undermines the region's place in the United Kingdom and could bolster ties with the Irish Republic, strengthening calls for a united Ireland.

Alliance party leader and justice minister, Naomi Long, said there had been "inflammatory rhetoric with threats of renewed violence bandied around by people who claim to be trying to lead others away from the violent past".

On Wednesday she said it was "not acceptable to make the police service a lightning rod for people's anger".

Ministers in the Stormont Executive condemned the violence and rioting, prompting united calls for calm to be restored.

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