Biden calls for 'calm' amid fresh night of violence in Northern Ireland

Daniel Fowler
April 9, 2021

Unrest first broke out last week amid rising tensions relating to Brexit and unionist anger over a decision by police not to prosecute leaders of the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein for allegedly breaking coronavirus restrictions during the funeral of a former leading IRA figure.

"The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality", Johnson said on Twitter.

However the DUP leader called for the Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Simon Byrne to resign for the handling of the funeral last summer, and tweeted that the violence in Belfast only serves to "take the focus off the real law breakers in Sinn Féin".

The government of Northern Ireland is holding an emergency meeting on Thursday following days of unrest reminiscent of "The Troubles" that plagued the region for decades. Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, of Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, called the violence "utterly deplorable".

Some 41 police officers had been injured and 10 people arrested over the disturbances, prior to the events on Wednesday night.

"We can't allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit", Mr Biden said then.

Following the 2016 Brexit result, a special "protocol" was agreed that shifted checks away from the land border.

However, its implementation has to date proved contentious and problematic, with the new regulatory and customs processes now required to bring goods into Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom, triggering lengthy delays at the province's ports, while also sparking growing unrest among unionists and loyalists at the presence of an Irish Sea trading border. That has created an effective border between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland, said analyst Katy Hayward, professor of political sociology at Queen's University Belfast.

Stormont Education Minister Peter Weir was responding to earlier comments from David Campbell, chairman of the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC), an umbrella group representing loyalist paramilitary groups. For many people, of course, borders in Northern Ireland are not just about customs and technicalities.

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Although a majority of people in Northern Ireland voted against leaving the European Union, the main Unionist parties supported Brexit.

A hijacked bus burns on The Shankill Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on April 7, 2021.

The BBC said the arrival of police cars mostly halted the violence.

The violence in Northern Ireland 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 republican funeral that took place during pandemic restrictions previous year.

The violence has been blamed on anger in response to a decision by the Public Prosecution Service not to pursue prosecutions against members of Sinn Fein who attended the funeral of Mr Storey past year despite restrictions over gatherings, as well as Brexit and localised issues in the south-east Antrim area.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday the president was monitoring the situation closely.

"We remain steadfast supporters of a secure and prosperous Northern Ireland in which all communities have a voice and enjoy the gains of the hard-won peace", Ms Psaki said.

"The British do whatever the hell they want to do and we get landed with everything afterwards", she told AFP.

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