As nightly riots began across Northern Ireland last week, mostly young men and teenagers from union districts battling police. Some of the arrested people were aged 13 and 14.
But on Wednesday, hundreds of Irish nationalist and union protesters began to face a worrisome escalation that sparked old memories of so-called 30-year sectarian violence. Troubles, which led to the deaths of 3,500 civilians, British security personnel and military members.
On Thursday night, pictures on Twitter showed protesters reunited in Belfast, with some putting trash bins on fire and blocking streets and police using water guns.
Saturday will mark the 23rd anniversary of the United States brokerage Good Friday Agreement, which has halted civil conflicts between Catholics and Protestants for decades and brings a military end to the border between Northern Ireland and the United States. Republic of Ireland to the south.
At a “peace wall” separating the traditional Catholic and Protestant neighborhood in Belfast on Wednesday night, both sides threw bricks and fired fireworks at each other across the barricade.
One heartbreaking photograph shows a masked young man throwing a blast across a closed door covered in an old mural labeled “There has never been a good war nor a bad peace.”
Ireland’s Secretary of State Simon Coveney urged to stay calm and warned: “It must be stopped before someone dies or is seriously injured.”
“This is a scene that we haven’t seen in Northern Ireland in a long time. They are scenes that many consider to be transmitted to history and I think there is a need for a concerted effort to ease tensions, ”he told Irish broadcaster RTE.
Dozens of police officers were injured. Politicians representing trade union and nationalism condemn the violence, even though they blame the riots.
On Thursday, leaders from both sides of the Northern Ireland General Assembly released a joint statement expressing support for law and order and the police, as well as deep concern about “the scene we all saw on our streets”.
Said Jonathan Roberts, Assistant Chief of Police, the Northern Ireland Police Department.
“Last night was a level that we hadn’t seen in Belfast or as far away in Northern Ireland in years,” Roberts told reporters. “We were very fortunate that no one was seriously injured or died last night. Especially the large amount of oil bombardment. “
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “deeply concerned” by the collision, especially the attacks on police, bus drivers and photographers journalists. Crime, ”he said on Wednesday night.
Members of the United States Congress and President Biden have warned Johnson that Brexit must not undermine peace in Northern Ireland. On Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki called for peace of mind: “We remain a steadfast supporter of a stable and prosperous Northern Ireland, where all communities have the right to have a voice and enjoy the peace that is. “We welcome provisions in both EU-UK trade and cooperation. The Northern Ireland Agreement and Protocol, which protects the interests of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement. ”
Sources of the week’s violence varied, suffering from frustration old and new.
Unions and their politicians, who feel themselves part of the United Kingdom dedicated to the Queen and the country, are unhappy with the Northern Ireland Protocol that Johnson and his counterparts in the European Union agreed to in. Sealing the Brexit deal
The emerging trade realities after Brexit have raised complaints that Northern Ireland is being treated differently than Britain, with the efficient movement of goods by new customs and controls across the Irish Sea.
The unions were also upset that as many as 2,000 people came out to view the bodies in June for Bobby Storey, a former chief of intelligence for the Republic of Ireland Armed Forces and a key figure in the Sinn Fein Nationalist Party.
Democratic Union Leader Arlene Foster has called for the resignation of the police chief for failing to stop rallies that violate COVID-19 blocking restrictions.
“The reasons for the anger today are very complex,” said Justice Minister Naomi Long, the coalition leader occupying the center of Northern Ireland. “They are concerned with disappointment and betrayal of Brexit. Republican funeral arrangements and anger sent to police undermining loyal soldiers. ”
She said, “We have come to a point where those things are a toxic combination.”
Belfast ground-based journalists also say that many young people are bored, angry and excluded and come out to express the excitement and intensity of the chaos on the streets, a phenomenon they call “a rebellion for the protection of the streets.” Take a rest “
Eileen Weir, who works on cross-community relationships and is a Loyalty Women Center in Shankill in central Belfast, says, “If you feel your identity has been taken away, you will be able to do it. How many thorns can you take from you? But going on the road is not the answer. We saw the light 23 years ago with a Good Friday deal. ”
Weir said, “Our youth are being dragged into this and branded a future by the actions of a handful of youth, many of whom are not from areas where violence is taking place,” she said. We want politicians to come out and solve problems, not more problems. “
Claire Bailey, Green Party leader in Northern Ireland, said: “We can get here because we are investing in the political process in the peace process.
The Good Friday deal requires a joint power in the General Assembly and Northern Ireland’s government, an uneasy battle that often leads to paralysis.
“We embed sectarianism in our institutional framework,” Bailey said. Give it to the people and communities that matter. “
The London reporting booth.