Sunday 11 April 2021 12:06 pm

Northern Ireland: Special forces deployed in Belfast as riots continue

Undercover special forces soldiers have been deployed in Belfast as rioting by gangs of young unionists continued over the weekend.

Dozens of officers have been injured over the past two weeks in Northern Ireland as violent rioting in Belfast has gradually escalated.

Images of petrol bombs and fireworks being thrown at police and over Belfast’s sectarian peace walls, which separate nationalist and unionist communities, have shocked the country in scenes reminiscent of the Troubles.

On Thursday, a journalist was attacked and a public bus was fire bombed.

The Sunday Mirror reports that a Special Reconnaissance Regiment is now active in Belfast to try and co-ordinate intelligence operations and track down those responsible for the rioting.

A source told the Mirror: “Northern Ireland is a tinderbox and has been for a while. Tensions are extremely high.

“There are elements on both the nationalist and loyalist sides who want to see British troops back on the streets but that would be a disaster.”

Anger in loyalist communities, who are pro-British, has been ignited by new Brexit arrangements that has set up a so-called border in the Irish Sea.

Customs checks of goods going between Norhtern Ireland and Great Britain will start later this year as Northern Ireland still follows EU customs union and single market rules while the rest of the UK does not.

This has infuriated some unionists as it means Northern Ireland is being treated differently to the rest of the UK.

Former Irish President Mary McAleese told the BBC that while Brexit played a large part in the violence that there were also other factors.

“Regrettably it arises because they’re in a vacuum and there is undoubtedly a vacuum of leadership,” she said.

“There are downstream consequences of Brexit…which we realise how little consideration was given in the planning of Brexit and the referendum of the impact it would have on Northern Ireland.

“But you’re also dealing with young people, regrettably, who are still being taught to hate and who are bringing that expression of hatred on the streets. They are 13 and 14 years of age – what experience do they have of life?”