Fears of weekend violence in Belfast as leaders call for calm

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Further unrest last night saw police use a water cannon for the first time in six years.

LEADERS OF THE Stormont Executive are to hold a online meeting with UK Secretary Brandon Lewis following further violence in Northern Ireland. 

Lewis arrived in Northern Ireland yesterday to speak to political and religious leaders as well as the PSNI. 

Further unrest last night saw police use a water cannon for the first time in six years. 

Hundreds of boys and young men gathered in west Belfast with stones and fireworks were thrown at police on the nationalist Springfield Road, close to where riots took the night previous that saw a bus set on fire. 

Nationalist and unionist communities in Belfast are often separated by towering “peace walls” to guard against projectiles. On Wednesday there were ugly scenes when part of this divide was breached. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Sinn Féin party leader Mary Lou McDonald TD said that engagement with the PSNI must continue as she pushed for unionist leaders to prevent protests planned for this week to go ahead.  

“We met with the Chief Constable yesterday morning and engagement is ongoing with the PSNI.  The police need to be fully-resourced to carry out their task,” she said.

The second thing that needs to come from that meeting is a call right across politics and in particular from unionism to those groups that are proposing to continue their protests over the weekend, particularly at the peace lines and at these interface areas, to desist. Call those off and to stop now before things get more serious and before people are badly injured or worse. 

McDonald also called for “more engaged leadership” from both London and Dublin saying that the “whole peace arrangement….. relies on strong cooperation.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Michéal Martin and British Prime Minister  Boris Johnson discussed the “concerning developments” in Northern Ireland.

The Irish government said in a statement this evening that both leaders “called for calm” and stressed that “violence is unacceptable”.

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Unionist frustrations over the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol and the decision not to prosecute Sinn Féin members who attended the Bobby Storey funeral have led to scenes of violence in mainly loyalist areas over the past week.

The PSNI used a water cannon in West Belfast.

The PSNI used a water cannon in West Belfast.

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