POLITICAL LEADERS across Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain have spoken out in condemnation of the violence and destruction seen in Belfast last night.
For several days, violence has erupted in Northern Ireland, with multiple PSNI officers injured as youths, mainly from loyalist areas, hurled stones and petrol bombs and set vehicles alight.
The riots were allegedly sparked by a number of things including Brexit, the Northern Ireland Protocol and Irish Sea border, and the decision that no action will be taken against Sinn Féin members who allegedly broken Covid-19 restrictions by attending a large funeral last year.
Last night, a crowd of loyalist youths again gathered in the Shankill Road area and hijacked and petrol bombed a double-decker bus, and a photojournalist for the Belfast Telegraph was assaulted.
The Stormont Assembly is to be recalled this morning for an emergency meeting after the surge in violence seen across the North in recent days, with the PSNI stating that 41 of their officers had been injured in the violence.
Northern Ireland First Minister and leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, last night shared a clip of the youths petrol bombing a bus and wrote "This is not protest. This is vandalism and attempted murder.
"These actions do not represent unionism or loyalism. They are an embarrassment to Northern Ireland", she said, claiming the riots took the focus off the "real law breakers" in Sinn Féin.
This is not protest. This is vandalism and attempted murder. These actions do not represent unionism or loyalism. 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. https://t.co/2JRcOb6s8C
— Arlene Foster #WeWillMeetAgain (@ArleneFosterUK) April 7, 2021
Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, leader of Sinn Féin in the north, condemned the "disgraceful scenes of criminality" including a "potentially lethal" attack on a bus driver and the assault of a journalist. She called for "unequivocal condemnation" of the riots from all political leaders.
Disgraceful scenes of criminality tonight including a potentially lethal attack on bus driver and assault on journalist. Unequivocal condemnation needed and protests should be called off immediately - police need support not politicking https://t.co/1UYr1AFSgI
— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) April 7, 2021
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote that he was "deeply concerned" by the scenes of violence in Belfast, and said "The only way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality".
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 way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 7, 2021
Taoiseach Micheál Martin "utterly" condemned the violent scenes, and said "Now is the time for the two Governments and leaders on all sides to work together to defuse tensions and restore calm".
I utterly condemn the violent attacks on police, a journalist, and bus driver over recent days in The North.
Now is the time for the two Governments and leaders on all sides to work together to defuse tensions and restore calm.
— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) April 7, 2021
TD Mary Lou McDonald, leader of Sinn Féin in the Republic, called for "a united voice for a halt to all violence and for the restoration of calm", saying "The attacks and intimidation must end."
A united voice for a halt to all violence and for the restoration of calm is the only acceptable stance from all political leaders. The attacks and intimidation must end. https://t.co/bO0Q0up1Bs
— Mary Lou McDonald (@MaryLouMcDonald) April 7, 2021
The CEO of the Northern Ireland Translink, Chris Conway, issued an update on the bus driver whose vehicle was hijacked and set alight, and said he is "very shaken and being looked after by colleagues".
He thanked those "trying to support communities under these terrible conditions".
Videos circulating from Belfast last night showed groups of youths hurling petrol bombs at each other across the gates of the peace line between Shankill Road and Lanark Way, by a mural which reads 'There was never a good war, or a bad peace'.