The parliament of Northern Ireland has been called urgently (it is in recess for the Easter holidays) to try to end the violence and unrest in loyalist areas of the last days. It will meet this Thursday at eleven in the morning. For the seventh consecutive night there have been riots in the cities of Londonderry, in the north of the region, and in Belfast, in the east. Molotov cocktails have been thrown at the police and vehicles have been set on fire. The violent incidents have ended with 41 police officers injured, dozens arrested and the feeling that tension is spilling over in Northern Ireland.
The spark that sparked the street violence of the Loyalists (Protestant unionists in favor of Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom) was the mass funeral that was held by Bobby Storey, the former member of the IRA, the now defunct Republican armed group, which was attended by up to 24 deputies from Sinn Féin, the Catholic Republican party favorable to the reunification of the island of Ireland. For more than thirty years there was an armed conflict in the region between the two communities, between pro-Irish Catholic Republicans and pro-British Protestant Loyalist Unionists and paramilitary groups from both communities. The violence ceased in 1998, after leaving a trail of 3,500 deaths, with the so-called Good Friday Accords, the peace treaty in which the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland participated.
Bobby Storey was a former IRA intelligence chief sentenced to 18 years in prison in 1981 and pardoned following the peace accords, which included the release of IRA prisoners. Storey was also one of 38 IRA prisoners who participated in the 1983 cinematic Maze high-security prison break., considered the safest prison in Europe in the 80s. It was key in the peace process to convince the most radical of the organization. In recent years he served as president of Sinn Féin in the north.
Bobby Storey’s funeral was held on March 30 in full lockdown due to the pandemic. Sinn Féin number two, Chief Deputy Minister Michelle O’Neill, and other senior party officials attended. The loyalists consider that the normal security of the covid was broken. They called for the attendees to be processed. The prosecution decided not to charge anyone. This provoked the indignation and fury of the loyalists, who took to the streets to protest. Politicians are united in calling for an end to the violence, but are divided over why it has broken out. The chief minister, unionist Arlene Foster, condemned the violence. “I tell young people who are angry not to create a criminal record. It will ruin their lives for the rest of their lifeThey will not be able to go on vacation, so please stop this violence ”. He added that the best way to protest from politics.
Foster also defended himself against the voices that They accuse unionist politicians for the rhetoric used to condemn the impunity of Republican politicians who attended Storey’s funeral. They consider themselves to be the catalyst for youthful anger. He said that young people have brains and that they think for themselves. And he again charged the police for failing to prosecute those attending the funeral and called for the immediate resignation of the chief of police.
Since 1998 that in Northern Ireland (British region in the northeast of the island of Ireland) there is a shared government between unionist and republican parties. In the last elections the unionists of Arlene Foster prevailed to the republicans of Michelle O’Neill, who occupy the vice-presidency. Sinn Féin blames the unionists for the incidents. They claim that they were already using this rhetoric before Storey’s funeral, point to them as responsible for spurring young loyalists and defend police work. And they have asked the police for an investigation by the Sunday loyalist marching bands parades through the streets of Portadown and Markethill, in the south of the region, in which the covid security regulations were also broken.
The president of the Northern Ireland Police Federation, Mark Lindsay, speaking to BBC 4 radio, said that young people were being “cynically used by more sinister elements of society” to cause disorder. He claimed that there had been a “Perfect storm”Including the decision not to prosecute the Sinn Fein members who attended Bobby Storey’s funeral and problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol to the Brexit deal.
The atmosphere in Northern Ireland has become rarefied since Brexit was consummated on January 1. The loyalist and unionist community was against the protocol of the Brexit agreement signed by Johnson and that it left parts of the Northern Irish economy within the common market and that it transferred border controls to the sea that separates Northern Ireland from the island of Great Britain, where the rest of the British territory is. These controls mean increased paperwork and have led to commodity supply problems. It was one of the concessions Johnson made to close the deal with the European Union and fulfill his Brexit promise. The 1998 peace accords do not allow the establishment of a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which is why it moved to the coast.
Unionists and loyalists’ anger over Brexit has been apparent. First were the walls of ports of entry where the controls were carried out and that They were painted with threatening graffiti against the officials who carried them out and against the former Irish Prime Minister. The Northern Irish and European authorities decided to suspend the searches for a few days to guarantee the safety of the workers. A few weeks later, the loyalist paramilitary groups that signed the peace accords of 98 announced that they no longer recognized that treaty and that they were leaving it. In the last days the president of Sinn Féin addressed the Northern Irish and told them to be ready for a referendum on the reunification of the island. The loyalist violence of the last seven nights is the latest example of the dangerous effects that Brexit can have on this delicate region.