A double-decker bus has been completely destroyed after it was burned by protesters in Belfast when Northern Ireland was hit by another night of violence amid heightened sectarian tensions in the region.
Dramatic recordings shared on social media showed people throwing Molotov cocktails at the bus while the driver was still inside as it drove down Shankill Road. Some in the crowd allegedly tried to hijack the vehicle.
The incident was confirmed by police in Northern Ireland, who said in a statement that the public should avoid Lanark Way and Shankill Road, as well as around Springfield Road and the West Circular Road area, where crowds had also gathered.
Northern Ireland’s Prime Minister Arlene Foster condemned the incident in a tweet and said: “This is not a protest. This is vandalism and attempted murder. ”
Deputy Secretary of State Michelle O’Neill issued a statement condemning “Shameful crime scenes” and said “Protests must be stopped.” She said the attack on the bus driver was “Potentially deadly” and also dismissed an attack reported by local journalist Kevin Scott, who said he had been jumped by two people before pulling him to the ground and smashing his camera.
So much too peaceful – I just jumped from behind by two males, masked on Cupar Way. One pulled me to the ground and smashed @BelTel cameras. As I struggled with this, I was asked to shoot off back to your own area where you would not be of the other. Police informed pic.twitter.com/dkhGjLRYgv
Kevin Scott (@ Kscott_94) 7, 2021
Police said there had also been throwing stones and garbage cans were burned at the interface ports on Lanark Way, which separates the predominantly Protestant and Catholic communities apart.
There were further riots in the unionist town of Carrickfergus near Belfast on Monday night as tensions boiled over in Northern Ireland following the decision not to prosecute politicians from the Republican Sinn Fein party who attended the funeral of a temporary Irish Republican army volunteer despite Covid limitations. Tensions had already been ignited among the loyalist community over a key element of Britain’s Brexit agreement with the EU.
Anger is concentrated on the ‘protocol’ that governs Northern Ireland, which, unlike the rest of the UK, is actually still in the EU’s internal market, but outside the trade bloc. The Protocol was agreed by the United Kingdom and the European Union as part of the withdrawal agreement as a means of avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an EU country, and of continuing to maintain the Good Friday peace agreement.
Goods entering Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom are therefore subject to strict border controls, which has led to a shortage of some products in Northern Irish supermarkets.
Loyalists see the event as a de facto border placed in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
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