Sinn Féin President warned Friday that Northern Ireland is facing a “very difficult” weekend, given the potential for more than a week of protests hitting the region spreading across the British province.
After another night of clashes with police in the Protestant and Catholic areas of Belfast, Mary Lou MacDonald said: Street Violence ‘Deliberately Organized’ He called on union politicians to “maximize” the tension and to show “leadership” to cancel the planned protests in the next few days.
The chief of Sinn Féin, the former political wing of the now inactive Irish Republican Army (IRA), has warned of the risk of these riots continuing and “paving the way” for a summer of violence, coinciding with the start of the controversial war. US season, Protestant marches across the region.
For the first time in seven years, the Northern Ireland Police (PSNI) Thursday night resorted to water cannons (banned in the rest of the UK) to fend off rock attacks, fireworks and ‘Molotov cocktails’ from groups, mostly young people, from both communities.
Law enforcement officials tried to prevent the two sides from clashing directly in West Belfast, where the so-called “peace lines” separate Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods.
Police said that the riots that took place last night did not reach the seriousness of the events of Wednesday, which they described as “the most violent in recent years,” and did not confirm yet whether there were injuries or arrests.
The recent violence has escalated due to escalating tensions over trade rules after Brexit and has caused a deterioration in inter-party relations in the Belfast government, shared between Catholics and Protestants.
Authorities accused illegal paramilitary groups of inciting youths to foment chaos.
The new trade agreement between London and the European Union bloc, within the framework of Brexit, imposed customs and border controls on some goods transported between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
The agreement was designed to avoid controls between Northern Ireland and Ireland, a member of the European Union, where open Irish borders helped maintain the peace process established under the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which at that time ended in three decades of violence that caused more than deaths. Three thousand.
But trade unionists have argued that these new controls amount to a new border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, and have called for the agreement to be abandoned.
Unionists are also disgusted by the police authorities ’decision not to prosecute Sinn Fein politicians who attended the funeral of a former IRA commander last June.
Bobby Story’s funeral drew a large crowd, despite restrictive measures in place in the context of the novel coronavirus pandemic that banned large crowds.
The main trade union parties demanded the dismissal of the Northern Ireland police chief over the controversy, arguing that the person in charge had lost the community’s trust.
British Minister for Northern Ireland Affairs, Brandon Lewis, announced that he intends to speak today with political and religious leaders in Northern Ireland, after another night of protests in the Northern Ireland region, in the context of internal tensions over Brexit.