Bad signs that evoke equally disturbing ghosts of the past. The unrest in the streets of Belfast, Ulster’s largest city, continues to abate, on the evening of last Wednesday a bus was stormed and set on fire during the sixth consecutive night of violence in Northern Ireland.
The public transport was attacked in an area that divides the nationalist and unionist communities (Catholics and Protestants), this while the police officers serving in public order have been subjected to stone throwing. In the streets, tires and rubbish bins were set on fire and a photographer from a news organization was attacked.
Northern Irish and British prime ministers Arlene Foster and Boris Johnson condemned the violence, Downing Street tenant has tweeted that “the way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or crime”.
Unanimous condemnation by the Ulster government
Unanimous condemnation by the government of Ulster – both in its unionist component led by Foster, first minister of the Dup, that of the republican headed by the deputy premier of Sinn Fein (we only in Gaelic language, representative formation of Irish Catholics) Michelle O’Brian – of the new violence that broke out in the night in Belfast, which resulted in clashes between demonstrators and police, a burnt bus, and an attacked journalist.
In a joint official statement, released following an executive meeting, the street clashes, previously censored by the central London government and British Prime Minister Johnson, were described as “totally unacceptable”.
Wednesday was the latest in a series of nights of unrest over the past week in various Northern Irish cities. Incidents triggered by radical unionist groups opposed to the decision of the local police not to prosecute violations of the rules of the lockdown carried out by hundreds of Republican activists and leaders of Sinn Fein himself on the occasion of the funeral of a historic former prominent member of the IRA, the Irish Republican Army.
Discontent never subsided
An episode for which Arlene Foster herself had initially called for the resignation of the commander of the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland), Simon Byrne, throwing – according to the Republicans – fuel on the fire.
In today’s communiqué, however, both Foster and the allies-rivals of Sinn Fein condemned the devastation, violence and attacks on policemen and, at the same time, expressed their support for the PSNI in its effort to end the unrest and prevent further violence.
In the background, in addition to the funeral case, however, the consequences of Brexit also weigh, in particular the discontent of the unionists against the agreements signed by the Johnson government with the European Union in order to guarantee the maintenance of the open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (EIRE), foreseen by the historic Good Friday Peace Agreements signed in 1998, even at the cost of accepting customs administrative controls on European goods in transit at the internal border between Ulster and the rest of the United Kingdom.
Controls on which Downing Street has in fact so far gone around, but which according to the unionists are mortgaging the link with London.