BORIS JOHNSON has been told to “step up” and “listen” to the concerns coming out of Northern Ireland.
The UK Prime Minister has been urged to take stock of the situation in the wake of the recent rioting witnessed in the region in a letter signed by four former NI secretaries, a former chief constable and a former Archbishop of Armagh
As many as 90 police officers have been injured since the sporadic riots began earlier this month in several loyalist areas of Northern Ireland.
Now several high-profile figures have urged Johnson to rebuild trust with the Irish government and make more of an effort to listen unionist grievances.
The letter also warned Johnson and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis that any “political vacuum” in the region could pose a significant risk to the peace process and called on them to "listen and be seen to be listening" to the concerns of those in Northern Ireland.
They also urged the government to ensure senior ministers were "seen to take an interest" in the issues faced in cities like Belfast.
"With our long collective experience we are extremely worried that violent unrest on the streets of loyalist areas and at interfaces is a consequence of politics, both in Stormont and in Whitehall, failing the people of Northern Ireland," the letter said
"We stress that the peace process did not end with the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement,” the letter added.
"Tony Blair and Gordon Brown recognised that, as did [Sir] John Major before them. They each took personal charge of the peace process, convening regular summits and being in constant touch with all the parties."
The letter has been signed by four of Lewis's predecessors as Northern Ireland Secretary; Lord Hain, Lord Mandelson, Lord Murphy and Mr Woodward.
Lord Patten, who helped establish the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in 2001, also signed the document along with former PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde and Lord Eames, who was previously the Church of Ireland's most senior cleric.
Several factors have been blamed for the recent violence, including the decision not to prosecute those who attended the funeral of former IRA intelligence chief Bobby Storey despite being in breach of Covid regulations.
Some have also been left unhappy at the introduction of the Irish Sea Border following the UK’s departure from the European Union.
Others are unhappy at the Northern Ireland Protocol, which they believe has ultimately undermined Northern Ireland’s status in the UK.
The letter stated: "While the violence is unacceptable, the fact is that there are grievances, real and perceived, within the broader unionist community and that cannot be ignored by the UK government."
It added: "There is a strong sense within loyalist and unionist communities that no-one is listening to them, and that nobody in authority in Whitehall has been honest with them about the consequences of Brexit.
"The most immediate step is therefore for the government, at the highest level, to be seen to take an interest."
The letter says Johnson and Lewis to do "need to rebuild trust with Dublin, which has been badly damaged, and to breathe fresh life into the British Irish intergovernmental process that is a key part of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement".
"The lesson of the past 50 years or more in Northern Ireland is that, if there is no forward movement, things do not stand still: they fall over," it adds.
"It is the responsibility of the UK government to ensure that does not happen because there is nothing more dangerous than a political vacuum."
Lewis and Johnson have yet to issue a formal respond.