55 police officers injured over past six nights of trouble in Northern Ireland

Trouble has flared across Northern Ireland over the past week. Credit: Trouble has flared across Northern Ireland over the past week.

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne says 55 police officers have been injured during trouble over the past six nights in Northern Ireland.

In a tweet, the police chief thanked officers for their "continued dedication and professionalism" and appealed again for an end to violence on the streets.

The latest disorder unfolded in west Belfast on Wednesday evening after crowds gathered on either side of the Lanark Way peace wall gates.

Police were attacked and petrol bombs, bottles, masonry and fireworks were thrown during "sustained disorder", with eight officers suffering injuries.

A bus driver escaped without injury after he was removed from his vehicle and it was set alight, and a press photographer was assaulted by two masked men.

Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said at times upwards of 600 people were present at the scene and six AEP rounds were discharged by officers.

Two men aged 18 and 28 were arrested on suspicion of riotous behaviour.

“I know the actions that we saw last night are not representative of the local community in west Belfast," continued ACC Roberts.

“Whilst many of those involved in the disorder last night were adults, it is clear there were many young people involved. 

"Young people were being encouraged to commit criminal acts by adults, who stood by clapping and encouraging the violence. 

"There is absolutely no justification for this. Young people need to quickly realise that by engaging in this type of behaviour they are not only risking their safety, they are also risking their futures.  

"Today I am appealing to parents and guardians please speak to your children.

"To those community, civic and political leaders please exert whatever influence you have to quell this disturbing, unnecessary and unwanted violence."

Simon Byrne updated the Executive on Thursday morning, ahead of a recall of the Assembly to discuss the escalating public order situation.

In a statement, the Executive Office said: "Attacks on police officers, public services and communities are deplorable and they must stop."

The violence is unfolding at a time of increasing rancour in the political sphere amid tensions over Brexit's Irish Sea trade border and the fallout from the police's handling of a mass republican funeral that took place during pandemic restrictions last year.

All four main unionist parties, including the DUP, have called for Simon Byrne to quit over how his service dealt with the funeral of former IRA leader Bobby Storey.

Mr Byrne has vowed not to resign and has signalled a desire to engage with people who have concerns about policing in the region.

On Thursday morning, DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster tweeted: "I have spoken with the chief constable as he briefs political parties.

"Thoughts are particularly with those officers injured by the unjustified and unjustifiable violence of recent days. Those responsible must be subject to the full rigour of the law.

"All must be equal under the law."