White House expresses concern over violence in Northern Ireland | North Ireland

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The White House has expressed concern over a week of riots in Northern Ireland, with Joe Biden joining Boris Johnson and the Irish Prime Minister in calling for calm after what police have described as the worst violence in Belfast in years.

It came as police used water cannons against nationalist youths in West Belfast, as unrest resumed in the streets on Thursday evening.

In a statement, the US President’s press secretary Jen Psaki said: “We are concerned about the violence in Northern Ireland” and that Biden has remained “unwavering” in his support for a “safe and secure Northern Ireland. prosperous in which all communities have a voice and appreciate the gains of the hard-won peace ”.

She spoke as Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis called on political leaders from all walks of life to tone down their language to ease tensions.

Biden, who has Irish roots, has repeatedly expressed support for the peace process and collapsed last year over UK plans to override parts of the Brexit deal, warning Boris Johnson that any trade agreement was “subject to compliance with [peace] agreement and preventing the return of a hard border ”.

Police said up to 600 people were involved in unrest in Belfast on Wednesday, when a bus was bombed with petrol, rubber bullets were fired and missiles were launched overhead. a “wall of peace”.

Demonstrators in Belfast hijack bus and set it on fire - video
Demonstrators in Belfast hijack bus and set it on fire – video

As parts of Belfast were scarred and a political crisis loomed, the Northern Ireland assembly united to condemn a seventh night of riots and approved a motion calling for an end to the violence ” deplorable ”and in support of the rule of law.

Boris Johnson and Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin spoke by telephone on Thursday, called for calm and agreed that “the way forward is through dialogue and the work of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement”.

Northern Ireland has been plunged into crisis after violence escalated at the intersection between Loyalist and Nationalist communities in the Shankill and Springfield areas.

Police said rioters threw petrol bombs, bottles, masonry and fireworks, and a Belfast Telegraph photographer was attacked. Police fired six plastic bullets known as Mitigating Energy Projectiles (AEPs) on Wednesday evening. Eight police officers were injured in the unrest and two men aged 28 and 18 were arrested on suspicion of rioting behavior.

Riot police
Riot police meet at Springfield Road / Lanark Way intersection Photographie: Charles McQuillan / Getty Images

Northern Ireland Police Department Deputy Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said Wednesday’s chaos “was on a scale that we haven’t seen in recent years” and that he was lucky that no one was seriously injured or killed.

Stones and fireworks were thrown at police by gangs of youths gathered Thursday night on the Nationalist Springfield Road, near where Wednesday night’s riots took place. Police deployed water cannons after the protesters did not disperse.

Lewis was due to hold virtual meetings with the leaders of the five parties in Northern Ireland’s executive, including the Democratic Unionist Party, Sinn Féin and the Alliance Party, on Friday morning.

After landing in Belfast, he said he encouraged politicians to “think very carefully” about the language they were using. He added: “Not just the trade unionists, but if you look at the tweets and messages from politicians from all parties, they have sent messages that can be interpreted in a particular way as being a little bit of anger towards them.

“I don’t think there is room for that. I have spoken to people from all parties about this. “

He did not mention any names, but public positions have focused on both the Brexit protocols for Northern Ireland and the recent decision not to prosecute Sinn Féin leaders who attended a funeral in violation of health restrictions. “I think we all need to be very clear that what politicians say here matters,” Lewis said.

Some signs of easing tensions emerged on Thursday as the Ulster Policy Research Group, which is linked to the Ulster Paramilitary Defense Association, called for an end to the violence, saying “the unrest from the streets will not solve our problems ”. The Council of Loyalist Communities, which represents loyalist paramilitary groups, reportedly met on Thursday afternoon, but failed to reach agreement on a statement condemning the violence.

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