Boris Johnson 'deeply concerned' after violence resumes in Northern Ireland

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Geraint Vincent


Boris Johnson said he is "deeply concerned" after another night of violence has broken out in Northern Ireland.

A bus was set on fire after a group of young men appeared to throw petrol bombs at a moving bus in west Belfast on Wednesday evening.

The incident occurred on a peace line street which connects the loyalist Shankill Road to the nationalist Springfield Road.

Stones were thrown at police while a press photographer was assaulted nearby while trying to work.

Footage on social media appeared to show people throwing petrol bombs, fireworks and rocks over a peace wall in the city, with crowds goading each other through the gaps.

A police vehicle reportedly tried to ram the gates closed.

Peace walls in the city separate loyalist and nationalist areas.

Following the violence, the prime minister tweeted: "I am deeply concerned by the scenes of violence in Northern Ireland, especially attacks on PSNI who are protecting the public and businesses, attacks on a bus driver and the assault of a journalist.

“The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality.”

It marks another night of unrest in Northern Ireland, which has witnessed similar scenes over the course of the past week.

The wreckage of a Translink Metrobus on fire on the Shankill Road in Belfast during further unrest. Credit: PA

Riots and attacks on police have taken place repeatedly throughout the last week and have now resumed after a relative lull on Tuesday.The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey last summer.

First Minister Arlene Foster condemned the attack on Twitter, saying: “There is no justification for violence. It is wrong and should stop.” She later added: "This is not protest. This is vandalism and attempted murder. These actions do not represent unionism or loyalism. "They are an embarrassment to Northern Ireland and only serve to take the focus off the real law breakers in Sinn Fein. My thoughts are with the bus driver." Deputy First Minister and Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O'Neill said: "Disgraceful scenes of criminality tonight including a potentially lethal attack on bus driver and assault on journalist. "Unequivocal condemnation needed and protests should be called off immediately - police need support not politicking." Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon described the attack on the bus as "sickening". She said: "Those attacking their own communities and their own public services are achieving nothing and if this doesn't stop now it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed. Police are advising members of the public to avoid these areas.

“We would appeal to those with influence in the area to use it to help restore calm,” a PSNI statement said.

Videos circulating online show a bus being pelted with petrol bombs and having its windows smashed where a crowd of people had gathered.

Translink Metro said it had withdrawn all services into the area until further notice due to road closures, as well as services in east Belfast.

The Northern Ireland Executive is to meet on Thursday morning to be briefed on the situation.

Leaders will meet for the briefing at 10am, an hour before the Stormont Assembly is to be recalled to discuss the recent scenes of violence.

The Chief Constable of the PSNI Simon Byrne has pleaded for the ongoing unrest to stop.

He tweeted: “The ongoing street disorder must stop. I am open to dialogue with anyone who is willing to work with me to resolve the issues facing our community.

“My message to those engaged in violence tonight is go home before someone is seriously injured, violence is not the answer.”

Arlene Foster, along with the other unionist parties, had called for the Chief Constable to resign over the Bobby Storey funeral debacle.

Police were attacked during another night of violence in a number of loyalist areas on Monday.

Bins are set ablaze at the Cloughfern roundabout in Newtownabbey Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

The most intense clashes on Monday were witnessed in Ballymena, when nine riot police officers were injured after they intervened in an unlawful march of loyalists through the town.

During the unrest, debris, including a wheelie bin, was thrown onto the M2 motorway, forcing its closure.

Some 41 officers have been injured in unrest since Friday.

Disorder also flared in parts of Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey and Londonderry on Monday, with petrol bombs and other missiles thrown at officers.

Children as young as 12 have been involved in some of the violence that has been witnessed in recent days.

Cars, a JCB digger, a phone box and bins were set alight in the Waterside area of Londonderry on Monday.

Police said that a brick was thrown at a taxi, which was carrying a passenger at the time, on the Limavady Road.

Earlier on Wednesday, a DUP MP urged loyalist protesters to “use their heads'” and step away from situations which may descend into disorder.

Gregory Campbell was speaking after several consecutive nights of violence across Northern Ireland which resulted in 41 police officers injured and 10 arrested.

Bins are set ablaze at the Cloughfern roundabout in Newtownabbey Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

Opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol and drugs seizures against a dissident faction of the UDA in south-east Antrim have also been blamed.

The DUP has called for the resignation of police chief Simon Byrne over the lack of prosecutions.

“If people use their heads and they think ahead and say ‘we’re not going to give people the opportunity to say a chief constable can’t stand down because of the threat of violence’,” Mr Campbell told the BBC.

“That is something that would have a resonance across the community. Don’t give them that excuse.

“They should think long and hard before taking part in any protests that could eventually result in violence and serious hurt being done to individuals as well as to the wider community they live in.”