Governments need to work together to stem mounting violence in the North - Martin

Governments need to work together to stem mounting violence in the North - Martin

Cars that people on the loyalist side tried to drive through the Peace Gates in Lanark Way, Belfast during further unrest in Belfast. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021.

The Taoiseach has condemned the violence in the North which raged on late on Wednesday.

In a statement issued late last night, Micheál Martin said that the governments need to "work together" to defuse the violence, which last night saw a bus hijacked in Belfast.

The bus was set alight after being pelted with petrol bombs at the junction of Lanark Way and Shankill Road in west Belfast.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said 55 police officers have been injured across several nights of disorder in Northern Ireland.

The Taoiseach's statement said that his government would work to listen to all sides in the North.

"I condemn the violence and attacks on the police that we have witnessed over the last number of days in The North. The only way forward is to address issues of concern through peaceful and democratic means. This evening’s attacks on a journalist and bus driver are deeply concerning and are in no one’s interests.

Now is the time for the two Governments and leaders on all sides to work together to defuse tensions and restore calm.

"My Government has listened to and will continue to listen to and engage with the views of all communities in Northern Ireland. But the way to address genuine issues of concern is through peaceful and democratic means."

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has echoed that sentiment, saying that both the UK and Irish Governments will work to ease tensions in Northern Ireland.

Mr Coveney told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that the images of violence on the street in Belfast on Wednesday night were “shocking.”

“This needs to stop before someone is killed. That has to start at the top in terms of political leadership,” he added.

“Statements from the Irish Government are not going to calm tension in many loyalist communities, it's got to come from the unionist community.”

He said that violent riots were not the way to make a political point.

A car drives past the wreckage of a Translink Metrobus on fire on the Shankill Road. Picture: PA Wire
A car drives past the wreckage of a Translink Metrobus on fire on the Shankill Road. Picture: PA Wire

Mr Coveney told Newstalk that it was not helpful for politicians to get involved in “a blame game” regarding the violence of recent days.

“Some people are pointing the finger at the Irish Government because of Brexit debates and the protocol which I think is completely unfair but it is happening.” 

He said the Irish Government had no power to offer up compromise on the Northern Ireland Protocol, even if it wanted to. 

“People talk about that as if that is within the gift of the Irish Government overnight. It is not.” 

Mr Coveney said he and the Irish Government had been advocating within the EU for some time for the flexibilities provided by the Protocol to be used “to the maximum extent possible.” 

The British Government also had to do their part also, he said. Acting unilaterally to change the implementation of the protocol had not helped.

Meanwhile, there was widespread criticism of the tweet put out by the North's First Minister Arlene Foster in which she said that the "real law breakers" were in Sinn Féin, despite that party having no links to the ongoing violence.

Labour leader Alan Kelly called the tweet "dangerous, worrying & embarrassing all in one" saying that it "encapsulates so much what the DUP priorities really are."

The Police Federation, the body that represents rank and file officers, has urged ministers in the Stormont Executive to speak with a united voice in condemning rioting in the North.  

The Stormont Assembly is also being recalled from Easter recess for an emergency sitting later on Thursday morning to debate the violence, which has mostly flared in loyalist areas.

The street disorder that has flared in various parts of Northern Ireland for more than a week can be attributed to a multitude of factors.

At its heart is loyalist anger at post-Brexit trading arrangements that have created economic barriers between the region and the rest of the UK.

For loyalism, Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol has undermined its place in the Union.

But it took an event unrelated to the Irish Sea border furore to set a match to resentment that has been simmering since the consequences of exiting the EU became a reality at the start of January.

The announcement by prosecutors last week that no action would be taken against 24 Sinn Fein politicians, including deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, for attending a huge republican funeral during the pandemic sparked outrage among some loyalists.

In several loyalist working class areas, many still in the grip of the malign influence of paramilitary gangs, sporadic rioting has since flared.

Belfast, Derry, Newtownabbey, Carrickfergus and Ballymena have all witnessed scenes of violence that many hoped had been consigned to the history books.

There have also been bouts of disorder within republican areas in recent days.

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