Police in Northern Ireland have used water cannons and dogs to contain fresh riots in Belfast.
Armored land robbers and officers with helmets and shields were deployed Thursday night after crowds collided at the Lanark Way interface separating nationalist Springfield Road from loyalist Shankill Road.
Police used water cannons for the first time in six years after dozens of youths on the Springfield Road side ignored a warning to spread and continued throwing rocks, bottles and fireworks.
The gathering on Shankill Road was less and less violent, marking a relative lull in loyalist violence after seven nights of unrest in loyalist areas across Northern Ireland.
Justice Minister Naomi Long called for an end to the violence. “Several attacks on the police, this time from nationalist youth,”
Brandon Lewis, Northern Ireland’s foreign secretary, was due to hold talks with political leaders and chief of staff Simon Byrne later on Friday.
He will try to build on the political momentum from Thursday, when the power-sharing leadership and the assembly in Stormont met to condemn the violence, which on the loyalist side has been driven by anger over the Irish sea border after Brexit and a decision not to prosecute Sinn Féin politicians who attended a large funeral for Bobby Storey, a former IRA commander, despite Covid lock-down restrictions.
Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart, Micheál Martin, issued a joint appeal for calm on Thursday after speaking by telephone. A White House spokesman added the Biden administration’s voice to appeals for calm.
Anonymous social media accounts, said to be from loyalist activists – they use the names of historical figures like Edward Carson – have called for further gatherings this weekend. Many of the accounts have been created in recent days and are believed to be false, leaving the situation unclear.
Ordinary politicians have called on the Council of Loyalist Societies, an umbrella group for paramilitary groups, to issue a statement condemning the violence and clarifying what if the role of paramilitaries has played a role in the unrest.
Billy Hutchinson, a Belfast city councilor with the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), which is in line with the Ulster Volunteer Force paramilitary group, expressed cautious optimism that the violence would subside. “I hope we are over it and that people will look sensible,” he told BBC Radio Ulster on Friday. “Violence does not advance the unionist cause.”
Simon Coveney, the Irish Foreign Secretary, told the same program that the Irish and British governments would work with the region’s political parties and the power-sharing leadership to stabilize the unrest.
“This leadership has to come from political parties in Northern Ireland, including the executive, but certainly governments need to be there to support them. Whatever we can do as governments in Dublin and London, we must do to support a calm and united message from politics on this island and across the UK. ”