Boris Johnson’s ‘deep concern’ as police try to calm Belfast disorder

Police have appealed for anyone with influence to help calm disorder in the Shankill area of Belfast after a bus was set on fire and petrol bombs were thrown across the peaceline.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 11:12 pm
Updated Thursday, 8th April 2021, 9:43 am

Trouble erupted after protesting loyalists blocked the road close to the Lanark Way interface.

A video posted on social media shows petrol bombs being thrown into an empty, hijacked bus as it rolled slowly along the Shankill Road.

As the loyalist protests escalated, crowds of nationalist youths gathered on the Springfield Road and began attacking police.

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The peaceline gates at Lanark Way are forced open on Wednesday evening by rioting youths. Photo: Pacemaker Belfast

Rival factions later attacked each other across the sectarian divide at Lanark Way after the peaceline gates were forced open.

Several days of loyalist protest activity has been linked to the creation of an Irish Sea border post-Brexit, and the lack of prosecutions over the Sinn Fein-organised Bobby Storey funeral.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “deeply concerned” at the violence.

Shortly after 9.30pm, Mr Johnson tweeted: “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 wreckage of a Translink Metrobus on fire on the Shankill Road in Belfast during disorder on Wednesday. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

“The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality.”

A press photographer was also assaulted and had some camera equipment damaged prior to the bus being hijacked.

Shortly after 7.30pm, a PSNI spokesman said: “We would appeal to those with influence in the area to use it to help restore calm.”

Arlene Foster tweeted: “This is not protest. This is vandalism and attempted murder. These actions do not represent unionism or loyalism.

Nationalist youths clashing with the PSNI on the Springfield Road close to the peace line in west Belfast on Wednesday evening. Photo: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

“They are an embarrassment to Northern Ireland and only serve to take the focus off the real law breakers in Sinn Fein. My thoughts are with the bus driver.”

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon also appealed for and end to the disturbances.

“Those attacking their own communities and their own public services are achieving nothing and if this doesn’t stop now it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed,” she said.

“Thankfully no one has been hurt in this incidence, but those responsible for this attack, and ongoing attacks on the police, need to stop and stop now.”

Mrs Mallon added: “I appeal for calm and call on those destroying their own communities and those fanning the flames to end this recklessness before someone is seriously hurt or killed.”

On Twitter, Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie said: “Stupid, mindless, criminal thuggery.

“Adults watching kids turn a bus into a deadly weapon. Utterly pathetic. A whole community labelled over the action of a few.”

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