Northern Ireland police appeal for calm after more unrest

Security forces say several dozen men in Belfast mounted an ‘orchestrated attack on police’ in second night of disorder.

There is rising discontent among Unionist pro-British groups in Northern Ireland over arrangements linked to Brexit [Paul Faith/AFP]

Police in Northern Ireland have appealed for calm after officers were attacked and cars were set on fire during a second night of unrest.

Northern Ireland police said on Sunday that Unionist protesters threw 30 petrol bombs at officers and torched cars during a night of “disorder” on Saturday in Newtownabbey, a suburb of northern Belfast. Three cars were also hijacked and set on fire.

North Area Commander Chief Superintendent Davy Beck in a statement released on Sunday said about 30 protesters, some in masks, had gathered on Saturday evening.

Several dozen men mounted an “orchestrated attack on police”, he said. A 47-year-old man was arrested and remains in custody.

On Friday night, 27 police officers were injured and eight people were arrested during riots in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry. Police said they came under “sustained attack” from a large group of young people throwing stones, bottles and fireworks.

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland called for an end to the violence and said people destroying their own communities was “not the way to protest or vent”.

There is rising discontent among Unionist pro-British groups in Northern Ireland over arrangements linked to the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.

The arrangements are aimed at preserving a fragile peace in the territory by preventing a hard border with EU member the Republic of Ireland.

The protocol removes the need for customs and regulations checks on the border with Ireland by shifting checkpoints for goods arriving from mainland Britain to Northern Irish ports.

Unionists argue however that it strains ties with the rest of the UK by introducing trade barriers.

Tension has also been stoked this week by a decision not to prosecute 24 Sinn Fein party members who attended the funeral in June of Irish Republican Army figure Bobby Storey in blatant violation of COVID-19 guidelines.

Northern Ireland’s first minister, Arlene Foster, has urged young people not to “get drawn into disorder” and refrain from attacking police.

In March, Northern Irish loyalist paramilitary groups told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson they are temporarily withdrawing support for the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement due to concerns over Brexit.

While the groups pledged “peaceful and democratic” opposition to the deal, the warning increased the pressure on Johnson, his Irish counterpart Micheal Martin and the EU over Brexit.

The 1998 peace accord, also known as the Belfast Agreement, ended three decades of violence between mostly Catholic nationalists fighting for a united Ireland and mostly Protestant unionists, or loyalists, who want Northern Ireland to stay part of the UK.

Source: News Agencies