Rioters in West Belfast on Wednesday hit
along the so-called “peace line” that divides predominantly Unionist and nationalist communities, with police struggling to close a gate designed to separate areas.
A bus was set on fire on Lanark Way near the junction with Shankill Road, the police said
. Photos and video
from the scene showed young people on both sides of the door throwing projectiles through, including gasoline bombs.
In a statement, Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin condemned the violence and “attacks on the police”, adding that “the only way forward is to resolve the issues of concern through peaceful and democratic means”.
“The time has come for the two governments and leaders on all sides to work together to defuse tensions and restore calm,” Martin said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson mentionned
he was “deeply concerned about the scenes of violence” in Northern Ireland.
“The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not through violence or crime,” Johnson said on Twitter.
Tensions have intensified in Northern Ireland since the UK voted to leave the European Union, creating the potential for a border between the British-ruled north and the Republican of Ireland to the south, who stays in the EU. The absence of borders was seen as a key element of peace after 1998 which followed three decades of sectarian violence.
Under the Northern Ireland Protocol to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, a de facto border has been created in the Irish Sea, with goods entering Northern Ireland from mainland Britain subject to controls union, a move that angered trade unionists, who accused London of abandoning them.
Speaking to CNN, Democratic Unionist Party MP Sammy Wilson called on Johnson to “tear up the deal that breaks the UK, tear up the deal that breaks all the promises you made to the people of Ireland North”.
Last month, the Council of Loyalist Communities (LCC), a group of union paramilitaries, said it was withdrawing its support for the Good Friday Agreement that ended the unrest.
While the LCC said the opposition would be peaceful, the letter said the groups would not join “until our rights under the deal are restored and the protocol (Brexit) amended to ensure access unimpeded to goods, services and citizens across the UK “.
LCC President David Campbell recently said: “It is very easy for things to get out of hand, which is why it is essential that dialogue takes place.”
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On Wednesday evening, Mary Lou McDonald, Irish lawmaker and leader of Sinn Fein, said: “A united voice to end all violence and restore calm is the only position acceptable to all political leaders. The attacks and the intimidation must stop. “
CNN’s Nic Robertson and James Griffiths contributed reporting.