Belfast violence: Petrol bomb thrown onto bus in Northern Ireland disorder

A bus has been set on fire at the junction of Lanark Way and Shankhill Road in west Belfast, the PSNI have said.

The incident took place on Wednesday evening on the peace line street that links the loyalist Shankhill Road with the nationalist Springfield Road.

Stones were thrown at police while a press photographer was assaulted nearby during the course of their work on Wednesday evening.

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.

Boris Johnson condemned the violence. Writing on Twitter, the Prime Minister 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.”

First Minister Arlene Foster condemned the attack on Twitter, saying: “There is no justification for violence. It is wrong and should stop.”

SDLP MP Claire Hanna also criticised the attack, tweeting: “We’re told by the apologists that these protests & riots are borne of frustration about not being listened to, but an excellent photo journalist is attacked while trying to capture the story.”

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.

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.

Videos circulating online show a bus being pelted with petrol bombs and having its windows smashed where a crowd of people had gathered.

Loyalists clashed with police 

Credit:
PA

Translink Metro said it had withdrawn all services into the area until further notice due to road closures, as well as services in east Belfast.

The Stormont Assembly is set to be recalled on Thursday morning for an emergency debate following days of violence.

Riots and attacks on police have taken place repeatedly throughout the last week and have now resumed after a relative lull on Tuesday.

Read more: Owen Polley: Brexit divisions and lockdown fatigue are fuelling violence in Northern Ireland [3]

Police were attacked during another night of violence in a number of loyalist areas on Monday.

Nine officers were injured in Ballymena, taking to 41 the number injured in disorder across Northern Ireland since last Friday night.

The most intense clashes on Monday were witnessed in Ballymena, when nine riot police officers were injured after they intervened in an unlawful march of loyalists through the town.

During the unrest, debris, including a wheelie bin, was thrown onto the M2 motorway, forcing its closure.

Police tried to repel nationalists from the Springfield Road area 

Credit:
AP

Disorder also flared in parts of Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey and Londonderry on Monday, with petrol bombs and other missiles thrown at officers.

Children as young as 12 have been involved in some of the violence that has been witnessed in recent days.

Cars, a JCB digger, a phone box and bins were set alight in the Waterside area of Londonderry on Monday.

Police said that a brick was thrown at a taxi, which was carrying a passenger at the time, on the Limavady Road.

Earlier on Wednesday a DUP MP urged loyalist protesters to “use their heads”‘ and step away from situations which may descend into disorder.

Gregory Campbell was speaking after several consecutive nights of violence across Northern Ireland which resulted in 41 police officers injured and 10 arrested.

The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey.

The wreckage of the burnt bus on Shankill Road

Credit:
PA

Opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol and drugs seizures against a dissident faction of the UDA in south-east Antrim have also been blamed.

The DUP has called for the resignation of police chief Simon Byrne over the lack of prosecutions.

“If people use their heads and they think ahead and say ‘we’re not going to give people the opportunity to say a chief constable can’t stand down because of the threat of violence’,” Mr Campbell told the BBC.

“That is something that would have a resonance across the community. Don’t give them that excuse.

“They should think long and hard before taking part in any protests that could eventually result in violence and serious hurt being done to individuals as well as to the wider community they live in.”

Read more: Telegraph View: Tensions in Northern Ireland have political undercurrents[4]

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