Northern Ireland: Loyalist 'paramilitary godfathers' exploiting young people - Donaldson

Police vehicles are seen behind a hijacked bus burns on the Shankill Road as protests continue in Belfast Northern Ireland

The recent violence, largely in loyalist, Protestant areas, has flared amid rising tensions over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland and worsening relations between the parties in the Protestant-Catholic power-sharing Belfast government.

The disorder follows similar attacks on police and riots in Belfast and elsewhere in Northern Ireland in the past week.

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

People also lobbed bricks, fireworks and gasoline bombs Wednesday night in both directions over a concrete "peace wall" that separates Protestant, British loyalist, and Catholic, Irish nationalist neighbourhoods. The two sides clashed across the wall, while nearby a city bus was hijacked and set on fire.

Others have attempted to characterise the violence on Brexit and Boris Johnson's failure to spell out the implications of the Northern Ireland Protocol and the trade disruption that has resulted in the wake of the transition period.

It is "gravely concerned by the scenes we have all witnessed on our streets, including those (in west Belfast) last night", it said in a statement.

Northern Ireland's politicians are meeting on Thursday at Stormont to consider a motion brought forward by the Alliance Party calling for an "immediate and complete end" to the violence.

"We saw young people participating in serious disorder and committing serious criminal offences, and they were supported and encouraged, and the actions were orchestrated by adults at certain times", said Roberts, the senior police officer.

One of those who attended the funeral, along with around 2,000 other mourners, was the vice-president of republican party Sinn Féin and current Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill.

He pointed to the role of paramilitary groups who he warned were stoking divisions and exploiting young people within loyalist communities, adding: "It would be wrong to attribute what has happened simply to Brexit and the protocol".

Northern Ireland endured 30 years of sectarian conflict that killed 3,500 people.

But unionists says the new checks amount to the creation of a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. - something they fear undermines the region's place in the United Kingdom.

Speaking to CNN, Democratic Unionist Party MP Sammy Wilson called for Johnson to "tear up the agreement which breaks up the United Kingdom, tear up the agreement which breaks up all the promises you made to the people of Northern Ireland".

Both Britain and the European Union have expressed concerns about how the Brexit agreement is working, and the Democratic Unionist Party wants it to be scrapped.

While Mrs Foster has accused the Police Service of Northern Ireland of undermining the rule of law and called for the resignation of the chief constable, critics have sought to blame the unrest on the DUP's inflammatory language.

The tension between the loyalist and nationalist communities is thought to have risen from the decision not to prosecute people who attended the large-scale funeral of a senior republican figure previous year, despite the lockdown restrictions in place at the time.

"It's really easy to see how it could get worse", she added.

There are also tensions over the police's handling of alleged lockdown breaches by Sinn Fein at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey.



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