Belfast violence: Petrol bomb thrown onto bus in Northern Ireland disorder
Boris Johnson has condemned violence that again broke out on the streets of Northern Ireland, after a bus was hijacked and set on fire.
The bus was set alight after being pelted with petrol bombs at the junction of Lanark Way and Shankill Road in west Belfast, the PSNI said.
It was one of a number of incidents on Wednesday evening that took place on the peace line street that links the loyalist Shankill Road with the nationalist Springfield Road.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Johnson said: “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.”
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.
News of the Executive meeting was confirmed late on Wednesday night with trouble still raging on the streets of Belfast.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “The Executive will meet tomorrow morning to be briefed on the violence and street disorder which is causing huge distress in local communities at this time.
“Those involved in violence, criminal damage, manipulation of our young people and attacks on the police must stop.”
It follows several nights of unrest in loyalist communities amid tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol on Brexit and the PSNI’s handling of alleged coronavirus regulation breaches by Sinn Fein at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey.
Stones were thrown at police while a press photographer was assaulted nearby during the course of their work on Wednesday evening.
Later on Wednesday night, the gates of the peace line on Lanark Way were opened, leading to clashes between loyalists and nationalists.
Social media footage captured petrol bombs being thrown from both sides of the wall.
First Minister Arlene Foster condemned the attacks 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.”
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.
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.
“Tonight with deep regret Translink has had to suspended some services in Belfast due to ongoing disturbances.
“Thankfully no one has been hurt in this incidence, but those responsible for this attack, and ongoing attacks on the police, need to stop and stop now.
“I appeal for calm and call on those destroying their own communities and those fanning the flames to end this recklessness before someone is seriously hurt or killed.”
Translink chief executive Chris Conway condemned the attack on the company’s staff member.
He said: “Thankfully, all passengers got off the bus safely before the attack occurred. My thoughts are with the driver who is badly shaken but thankfully unhurt, he is being supported by colleagues.
“We are working closely with the PSNI and services have been suspended in this area and in other parts of the city. They will remain withdrawn until it is safe to reinstate them.
“Our staff have been working on the frontline throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to keep essential services operating and to keep communities connected, and this attack is reprehensible.”
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.
Gates set alight at the peace line between between the Shankill Road and Lanark way interface in North Belfast. Crowds of a few hundred on each side throwing petrol bombs over in both directions. pic.twitter.com/LYnRmAETTY