LiveNI Street Violence - Bus driver at centre of hijacking is 'badly shaken' and 'will need time' before returning to work - Six baton rounds fired at rioters by PSNI - Brandon Lewis flies in for emergency talks over rioting

A bus driver who was forced to abandon the double-decker bus he was driving in west Belfast before it was torched by youths armed with petrol bombs "will need time" before he will be able to return to work, a colleague has said.

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 5:47 pm

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The bus driver and passengers were forced off the double-decker bus before it was torched by youths with petrol bombs.

LIVE UPDATES: NI Street Violence - Bus driver at centre of Belfast hijacking will need time before able to return to work say colleagues

Last updated: Thursday, 08 April, 2021, 17:40

  • Bus driver at centre of Belfast hijacking will need time before able to return to work say colleagues
  • Six baton rounds fired at rioters by PSNI
  • NI SoS Brandon Lewis flies in for emergency talks over rioting
  • Arlene Foster describes recent violence as 'totally unacceptable’

Bus driver at centre of Belfast hijacking will need time before able to return to work say colleagues

A bus driver who was forced to abandon the double-decker bus he was driving in west Belfast before it was torched by youths armed with petrol bombs “will need time” before he will be able to return to work, a colleague has said.

The driver also got his passengers off the bus before it was set on fire at the junction of Lanark Way and Shankill Road on Wednesday evening.

“It’s disgraceful what happened,” said the Translink worker who asked not to be named.

“Thankfully he and the passengers got off the bus but he’s still badly shaken.

“He will need time before he can even think about coming back to think.”

A spokesperson for Translink said: “The driver is badly shocked but thankfully unhurt and is being supported by colleagues.”

Six baton rounds fired at rioters by PSNI

The PSNI has confirmed it discharged six Attenuating Energy Projectiles (AEPs) during incidents of public disorder in Northern Ireland on Wednesday evening.

Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said: “We witnessed intense disorder in a built up area for a sustained period.

“During this time officers came under constant attack. At times there were upwards of 600 people present. Petrol bombs, bottles, masonry, and fireworks were thrown during scenes of violent disorder.

“A bus was hijacked and set on fire. The driver, a key worker in our community, was removed from his bus and violent crowds threw petrol bombs into it, setting it alight. 

“Thankfully the driver escaped without injury. A moving bus on fire surrounded by a large crowd could have led to members of the local community being seriously injured.”

ACC Roberts added, “During the disorder six AEPs were discharged by officers. Eight officers were injured. Two men aged 18 and 28 have also been arrested on suspicion of riotous behaviour.

“A press photographer was also assaulted by two masked men.  An investigation is

underway into his assault and criminal damage to his equipment.  During the

disorder, two motorists had their vehicles hijacked and burnt out.” 

ACC continued: “I know the actions that we saw last night are not representative of

the local community in West Belfast.

“Whilst many of those involved in the disorder last night were adults, it is clear there were many young people involved.  Young people were being encouraged to commit criminal acts by adults, who stood by clapping and encouraging the violence. 

“There is absolutely no justification for this.

“Young people need to quickly realise that by engaging in this type of behaviour they are not only risking their safety, they are also risking their futures.  

“Today I am appealing to parents and guardians please speak to your children.

“To those community, civic and political leaders please exert whatever influence you have to quell this disturbing, unnecessary and unwanted violence.”

Assistant Chief Constable Roberts concluded: “I would like to thank the many local community representatives who tirelessly worked with officers to restore calm.

“I want to assure the community that over the coming days, police will be proactively working to identify all of those involved in this disorder, arresting them and where appropriate bringing them before the courts.

“Officers will continue to patrol all areas in Belfast, tackling not only disorder, but all types of criminality including burglaries, thefts, assaults and domestic abuse. 

“We will continue to work with the community, political representatives and other partners to ensure we never have to witness public disorder on this scale again.”

Brandon Lewis flies in for emergency talks over rioting

The Northern Ireland Secretary is flying to Belfast to hold emergency talks with the main political parties as well as faith and community leaders in an attempt to quell a spate of violence - writes Sam Blewett, PA Political Correspondent.

Brandon Lewis will meet with First Minister Arlene Foster, from the DUP, and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, from Sinn Fein, on Thursday afternoon, the PA news agency understands.

He was also expected to meet Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken and Alliance party leader Naomi Long following several nights of disorder that have seen dozens of police officers injured.

Sir Keir Starmer earlier urged Boris Johnson to “step up” and convene all-party talks, as he noted Unionist concerns that the Prime Minister’s Brexit promises are not being kept.

The Labour leader, a former human rights adviser to the Northern Ireland Policing Board, said there is “no justification” for the rioting.

But he acknowledged there are concerns over the arrangements for the nation after the UK left the European Union, and he told Mr Johnson to find “pragmatic political solutions” over the rioting.

The Prime Minister has said he is “deeply concerned” by the scenes and called for calm in the region, adding: “The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality.”

The violence unfolded amid increasing political tensions over the trade border in the Irish Sea caused by Mr Johnson’s Brexit agreements with Brussels, as well as fallout from the police’s handling of a mass republican funeral that took place during coronavirus restrictions.

Sir Keir said: “This is about leadership and the Prime Minister can’t be absent. He needs to convene talks urgently to find pragmatic political solutions to reduce this violence.”

Asked during a campaign visit to Bristol if he thinks the violence is a consequence of Brexit, the Labour leader said: “There are concerns in Northern Ireland about Brexit, there are concerns about the promises that the Prime Minister made which haven’t been kept.

“They don’t justify the violence, let’s be very, very clear about that.

“What the Prime Minister needs to do now is step up, show leadership, convene all-party talks and talk to the government of Ireland of course as well, and resolve this with pragmatic political solutions.”

The Stormont Assembly was recalled from Easter recess for an emergency sitting to debate the violence, which has mostly flared in loyalist areas.

UK Cabinet minister Matt Hancock earlier described the reasons for the violence in Northern Ireland as “complex” as he called for dialogue.

The Health Secretary told Sky News: “Of course we’re concerned and the route out of this is dialogue and I’d encourage all sides to engage in that dialogue.

“The reasons for this violence are complex.

“I’ve spoken to the Northern Ireland Secretary and he and the Prime Minister are obviously working very closely on this.

“From the UK Government point of view we’d like to see all sides engaged in that dialogue and (for it to) be resolved as a devolved matter by the people of Northern Ireland.”

European Commission calls for end to Northern Ireland violence

The European Commission called for an end to the violence in Northern Ireland.

Commission spokesman Eric Mamer told reporters in Brussels: “We of course condemn in the strongest possible terms the acts of violence that have occurred in Northern Ireland over the past days.

“Nobody has anything to gain from this.

“We call on all those involved to refrain immediately from these violent acts.”

Colleagues rally in support of driver caught up in attack on bus

An act of solidarity has taken place at Belfast City Hall for a bus driver whose vehicle was hijacked and set alight amid scenes of disorder - writes Rebecca Black, PA.

A number of drivers gathered in the grounds of City Hall on Thursday lunchtime.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) assistant general secretary Owen Reidy said it was a demonstration on behalf of the entire trade union movement to support the driver, who has been left shaken by the incident.

“Theirs is an act of generosity towards their fellow bus driver who was shockingly attacked last evening and towards the brave police officers and journalists who were also assaulted while doing their job and serving the community,” he said.

“Workers across Northern Ireland will not accept being the subject of attacks when going about their duties.

“The Translink workers are standing up and proclaiming this loudly.

“This has to stop and it has to stop now.

“All public representatives from across the community and every person of good will and influence in interface areas have to make clear that all such protests end before we have another night of violence.

“Young people are being treated as cannon fodder.

“Someone is going to get killed.

“The best public service any decent person of influence can do right now is to prevent the spiral deepening.

“Politicians need to come together, work together and make politics work in the interest of the entire community.”

The Metro Bus was taken at around 7.20pm at Lanark Way in west Belfast on Wednesday.

Translink chief executive Chris Conway said all the passengers were off the bus before the attack and said his thoughts are with the driver who he described as “badly shaken but unhurt”.

Bus services were withdrawn in a number of areas of Belfast as a precaution.

Naomi Long accuses adults 'directing' attacks of 'child abuse'

Justice Minister Naomi Long described it as disturbing that children as young as 12 had been involved in confrontations with police in Northern Ireland, and said she was horrified to watch footage of adults “standing by cheering and goading and encouraging young people on as they wreaked havoc in their own community”.

“This is nothing short of child abuse.”

She said while there are many theories of what is behind the violence, there can be “no excuse or justification for what has taken place”.

“Our condemnation of such violence must be unequivocal.”

Emergency meeting of NI Assembly begins - Arlene Foster describes recent violence as 'totally unacceptable’

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the scenes witnessed across Northern Ireland were “totally unacceptable”.

The Northern Ireland First Minister said the injuries to police officers, harm to Northern Ireland’s image and people’s property has taken the region backwards.

Speaking in the Assembly she said: “Today is not the time to rehearse the arguments in the last few weeks. We should all know that when politics are perceived to fail, those who fill the vacuum cause despair.

“Northern Ireland faces deep political challenges ahead.”

She said that the future requires political leadership.

NI Executive issues statement on street violence across Northern Ireland

The Executive has condemned the violence over recent days and has called for calm to be restored to our streets, and an end to violent protests.

At a special meeting this morning, Ministers were updated on the situation over the last few days by the Chief Constable and have issued the following statement:

“We are gravely concerned by the scenes we have all witnessed on our streets over the last week, including those at the Lanark Way interface last night. 

“Attacks on police officers, public services and communities are deplorable and they must stop.

”Destruction, violence and the threat of violence are completely unacceptable and unjustifiable, no matter what concerns may exist in communities.

“Those who would seek to use and abuse our children and young people to carry out these attacks have no place in our society.

“While our political positions are very different on many issues, we are all united in our support for law and order and we collectively state our support for policing and for the police officers who have been putting themselves in harm’s way to protect others.

“We, and our departments, will continue to work together to maximise the support we can give to communities and the PSNI to prevent further violence and unrest.”

Fears public disorder will lead to spike in Covid-19 infections

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Michael McBride, has expressed concern that recent public disorder on streets across Northern Ireland over the last seven days could lead to a spike in Covid-19 infections.

Dr. McBride made the comments on BBC Radio Ulster programme Good Morning Ulster on Thursday.

“I would appeal to everyone that we are in the middle of a pandemic and have some distance to go yet before we have any return to normality.

“As a doctor I am really concerned about the risk of harm in terms of the transmission of the virus when I see people gathering together.

“I am also concerned about the harm through injury to individuals involved in such activity or to others on the receiving end of that.”

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