One Month on the Shankill: Inside Belfast's loyalist community after NI's worst violence in years

One Month on the Shankill: Watch an extended eyewitness report as ITV News gains access to the Shankill Road loyalist community following the recent violence, as tensions rise over the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol.


Petrol bombs, fires, and bricks smashing windows - the riots in Belfast earlier this year was some of the worst violence ever seen in Northern Ireland for years.

Over several nights in April, cars were hijacked and loyalists - including children and teenagers - have vowed to resume protest action against post-Brexit trading arrangements.

The Northern Ireland protocol is so much more than the so-called "sausage wars", it has created new barriers and bureaucracy on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

ITV News has spent a month speaking to people in the Shankill Road community, which is predominantly loyalist, about the riots, the anger, and the impact of the Northern Ireland protocol on their lives.


"We're just looked upon like we're dogs dirt on the ground", a teenager says

One teenager, Matty, told ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo: "The protocol has radicalised young people."

Another teenager, Dylan, added: "I felt like they got pushed into it."

When asked whether the riots and violence will happen again, Dylan said: "Personally, I think it's going to get worse, the way it is looking, I think it will get worse...and possibly guns will get brought out."

Matty also said political parties and politicians including the DUP, Sinn Fein and Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks down at his community.

"We're just looked upon like we're dogs dirt on the ground - that's what we're looked upon, and that's not the way it should be," he said.


"I was feeling anger, I was feeling like we had no other option": A young rioter on why he took part in the violence

One of the rioters has spoken to ITV News about why he took part in the violence in April this year.

He said: "I was feeling anger, I was feeling like we had no other option, we had to do something about it."

"We did loads of stuff and nothing worked, we had peaceful protests, put banners up, put a post up on Facebook, put paint on the walls - 'No Irish Sea border! No NI protocol' and none of it seemed to work.

"None of it made the news but as soon as a wee bit of trouble happened..."

Every year, bonfires and parades occur on July 12 but this year feels different as many loyalists believe for the first time they are drifting away from the UK.

The Twelfth parades mark the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne, north of Dublin, in 1690 - a triumph that secured a Protestant line of succession to the British Crown.

The Orange Order was formed in County Armagh in 1795, when its founding members pledged their loyalty to the royal family and swore to defend the Protestant faith.


"We're being left behind and no one is listening"

Speaking at a parade, Stacey tells ITV News her family including her children have faced abuse on social media for their support of the UK.

She said: "I do feel like we're being left behind and no one is listening, we just want to thrive and be living in peace."

When asked whether the protocol is the final straw, Stacey said: "Yes, I think so, it's just a multitude of different things over many years. The perception of two-tiered policing, you have the Good Friday agreement that's not delivered. It looks like it's delivered for other communities but the Shankill community is still living in poverty and deprivation."


What comes next for Northern Ireland?

She said: "I want to live in peace, I don't want to be attacked for who I am. I get abused on social media on every single day, my children get attacked on social media because they're proud to be British - what's right about that?"

"It's totally wrong, no other section of society is abused and labelled like my society and we've had enough."


What happened in Belfast and why are people angry over the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol?

Scenes of youths pelting police lines is an all too familiar and depressing phenomenon, UTV Political Editor Tracey Magee wrote in April. But it is important to note the violence witnessed in April, while destructive and mindless, has not appeared out of nowhere.

Loyalists claim the Northern Ireland Protocol has undermined the region's place within the Union.

Magee added: "Brexit, complex socio-economic factors, political disaffection and the ever present sectarian anger have combined to disturb Northern Ireland’s delicate ecosystem – restoring balance is now the challenge."