Northern Ireland govt to meet as Belfast riots escalate
The devolved Northern Irish government is set to meet on Thursday to discuss the ongoing riots in Belfast after a sixth consecutive night of disturbances.
Leaders will be briefed on events in the regional capital on Wednesday night that included sectarian clashes, attacks on police and a hijacked bus being firebombed.
Clashes were seen on a “peace line” separating divided communities in Belfast with rioters throwing petrol bombs and bricks at each other.
Tensions broke out a week ago due to frustration from pro-British unionists over the new trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK imposed by the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, goods that enter the region from the UK are subject to checks from EU officials, creating a border down the Irish Sea.
Irish Prime Minister Micheàl Martin urged all parties involved to work together to try to defuse tensions.
The Northern Ireland coalition government between Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party also condemned the violence but blamed each other for the start of the riots.
The DUP claim unionist anger was a result of a decision by police not to prosecute leaders of Sinn Fein for allegedly breaking coronavirus restrictions during the funeral of a former leading IRA figure.
Sinn Fein in turn blamed First Minister and leader of the DUP Arlene Foster for stoking feelings of frustration after she showed strong opposition for the new trade barriers.
Unionist paramilitary groups such as the Loyalist Communities Council made announcements last month claiming they would withdraw from the Good Friday Agreement, which ended 30 years of civil war within the province, known as "The Troubles".
The groups said that they would not return to the agreement that put an end to the Troubles until trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK are removed.