Thursday 8 April 2021 12:47 pm

Northern Ireland: Ministers condemn 'deplorable' violence in Belfast

Northern Ireland’s devolved government has condemned the “deplorable” acts of violence and rioting from militant unionists over the past six nights in Belfast and beyond.

Ministers said in a statement that they are “gravely concerned by the scenes we have all witnessed on our streets, including those at the Lanark Way interface [in Belfast] last night”, after holding an emergency meeting with police this morning.

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The statement read: “Attacks on police officers, public services and communities are deplorable and they must stop.

“Destruction, violence and the threat of violence are completely unacceptable and unjustifiable, no matter what concerns may exist in communities.

“Those who would seek to use and abuse our children and young people to carry out these attacks have no place in our society.”

The statement comes after last night a bus in was hijacked and then fire-bombed near one of Belfast’s “peace walls”, which were built to separate communities after sectarian riots in 1969.

A large group near the divide also threw fireworks and petrol bombs at each other.

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis is on his way to Northern Ireland and will make a statement from Belfast.

It followed five nights of rioting by unionists, unhappy with Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, which has seen dozens of police officers injured.

The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement’s Northern Ireland protocol effectively puts a border in the Irish Sea and forces checks on goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Some unionists have been infuriated by the changes as they feel it has cut them off from the rest of the UK.

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Ulster Unionist Party leader Steve Aiken called the riots “completely unacceptable” and condemned “organised criminal gangs bringing out children, young people and others to commit acts of destruction”.

Sinn Feinn deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill said it is a “miracle that, as we stand here today, no one has been killed”.