LONDON (AP) – Police in Northern Ireland and politicians on Monday called for calm on the third night of violence when Protestant youths opened fire, killing officers with bricks and petrol bombs.
Outbreaks appear to be exacerbated by the escalating tensions over Brexit trade rules with Northern Ireland and the deteriorating relations between the ‘parties’ in the Belfast government, which splits the Protestant-Catholic government.
Police in Northern Ireland say officers have been attacked in London on Sunday night, sparking riots in two pro-British trade unions near Belfast. Police said most of those involved were teenagers.
Inspector General Darin Jones condemned “senseless, reckless criminal conduct that (does not) lead to harm to the community.”
The riots followed Friday (Saturday) in Belfast, a London-based trade union riot known as Derry, where cars were set on fire, with grenade launchers and petrol bombs passing by police. Police said 27 officers were injured, four were charged, and the youngest was a 13-year-old boy.
The economic split of Britain from the European Union in late 2020 upset the delicate political balance in Northern Ireland, in a part of the United Kingdom where some people were known as British and some as Irish.
The new UK-EU trade deal has introduced customs-border controls on some goods transported from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK. The agreement was intended to avoid Northern Ireland’s EU-Ireland inspections, as the open Irish border helped underpin the peace process built on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
The treaty ended decades of violence involving Irish Republicans, British loyalists and the British Armed Forces, during which more than 3,000 people were killed. But unionists say the new inspections form a new frontier in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain.
The Democratic Union Party, which co-chairs Northern Ireland with the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party, has called for the Brexit deal to be canceled.
The Unionists are also angry over the decision of the police not to prosecute Sinn Féin politicians who attended the funeral of the former commander of the Irish Republican Army in June. The funeral of Bobby Story brought in large numbers of people, despite coronavirus rules banning mass gatherings.
The main trade union parties have demanded the resignation of the Northern Ireland Police Chief amid controversy, claiming he has lost the trust of their community.
Mark Lindsey, president of the Northern Ireland Police Federation, said the “political atmosphere” was being used to justify violence organized by banned paramilitaries.
“Older, more evil elements are being used by young people, children are being used to achieve their goals,” Lindsay told BBC radio.