In pictures: Night of violent scenes in Belfast as bus hijacked and set alight

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The Northern Ireland Executive is to meet on Thursday morning to be briefed on the ongoing unrest seen over the last week.

eaders will meet for the briefing at 10am, an hour before the Stormont Assembly is to be recalled to discuss the recent scenes of violence in mainly loyalist areas.

News of the meeting was confirmed late on Wednesday night as trouble continued to rage on the streets of Belfast, with Executive members scheduled to debate a motion condemning the recent attacks on police.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill tweeted: “The Executive will meet tomorrow morning to be briefed on the violence and street disorder which is causing huge distress in local communities at this time.

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Fire fed by petrol burns as youths clashed at the Peace Gate at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Violence broke out after a Loyalist protest, with youths attacking police officers and petrol-bombing a bus. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Fire fed by petrol burns as youths clashed at the Peace Gate at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Violence broke out after a Loyalist protest, with youths attacking police officers and petrol-bombing a bus. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Fire fed by petrol burns as youths clashed at the Peace Gate at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Violence broke out after a Loyalist protest, with youths attacking police officers and petrol-bombing a bus. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 07: Fireworks explode as youths exchange projectiles through the Peace Gate during clashes at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Violence broke out after a Loyalist protest, with youths attacking police officers and petrol-bombing a bus. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 07: Fireworks explode as youths exchange projectiles through the Peace Gate during clashes at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Violence broke out after a Loyalist protest, with youths attacking police officers and petrol-bombing a bus. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND – APRIL 07: Fireworks explode as youths exchange projectiles through the Peace Gate during clashes at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Violence broke out after a Loyalist protest, with youths attacking police officers and petrol-bombing a bus. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 07: Petrol is poured as youths exchange projectiles through the Peace Gate with their faces covered during clashes at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Violence broke out after a Loyalist protest took place in front of the gates of the peace line at the Springfield Road/ Lanark Way Interface. Youths attacked police officers and petrol bombed a bus. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 07: Petrol is poured as youths exchange projectiles through the Peace Gate with their faces covered during clashes at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Violence broke out after a Loyalist protest took place in front of the gates of the peace line at the Springfield Road/ Lanark Way Interface. Youths attacked police officers and petrol bombed a bus. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND – APRIL 07: Petrol is poured as youths exchange projectiles through the Peace Gate with their faces covered during clashes at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Violence broke out after a Loyalist protest took place in front of the gates of the peace line at the Springfield Road/ Lanark Way Interface. Youths attacked police officers and petrol bombed a bus. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 07: Fireworks are launched as youths exchange projectiles through the Peace Gate with their faces covered during clashes at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Violence broke out after a Loyalist protest took place in front of the gates of the peace line at the Springfield Road/ Lanark Way Interface. Youths attacked police officers and petrol bombed a bus. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 07: Fireworks are launched as youths exchange projectiles through the Peace Gate with their faces covered during clashes at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Violence broke out after a Loyalist protest took place in front of the gates of the peace line at the Springfield Road/ Lanark Way Interface. Youths attacked police officers and petrol bombed a bus. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND – APRIL 07: Fireworks are launched as youths exchange projectiles through the Peace Gate with their faces covered during clashes at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Violence broke out after a Loyalist protest took place in front of the gates of the peace line at the Springfield Road/ Lanark Way Interface. Youths attacked police officers and petrol bombed a bus. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 07: A person looks on as debris burns during clashes at the Springfield Road/ Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 07: A person looks on as debris burns during clashes at the Springfield Road/ Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND – APRIL 07: A person looks on as debris burns during clashes at the Springfield Road/ Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 07: A person approaches a fire during clashes at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 07: A person approaches a fire during clashes at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND – APRIL 07: A person approaches a fire during clashes at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 07: Petrol is poured as youths exchange projectiles through the Peace Gate with their faces covered during clashes at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Violence broke out after a Loyalist protest took place in front of the gates of the peace line at the Springfield Road/ Lanark Way Interface. Youths attacked police officers and petrol bombed a bus. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 07: Petrol is poured as youths exchange projectiles through the Peace Gate with their faces covered during clashes at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Violence broke out after a Loyalist protest took place in front of the gates of the peace line at the Springfield Road/ Lanark Way Interface. Youths attacked police officers and petrol bombed a bus. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND – APRIL 07: Petrol is poured as youths exchange projectiles through the Peace Gate with their faces covered during clashes at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Violence broke out after a Loyalist protest took place in front of the gates of the peace line at the Springfield Road/ Lanark Way Interface. Youths attacked police officers and petrol bombed a bus. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

A man carrying bricks in Belfast during further unrest in Belfast. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A man carrying bricks in Belfast during further unrest in Belfast. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A man carrying bricks in Belfast during further unrest in Belfast. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A man next to a fire at the Peace Gates in Lanark Way, Belfast during further unrest in Belfast. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A man next to a fire at the Peace Gates in Lanark Way, Belfast during further unrest in Belfast. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A man next to a fire at the Peace Gates in Lanark Way, Belfast during further unrest in Belfast. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A car on fire at the Peace Gates in Lanark Way, Belfast during further unrest in Belfast. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A car on fire at the Peace Gates in Lanark Way, Belfast during further unrest in Belfast. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A car on fire at the Peace Gates in Lanark Way, Belfast during further unrest in Belfast. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A PSNI officer stands on North Queen Street in Belfast looking towards Tigers Bay where three Police Land Rovers form a police line during further unrest. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A PSNI officer stands on North Queen Street in Belfast looking towards Tigers Bay where three Police Land Rovers form a police line during further unrest. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A PSNI officer stands on North Queen Street in Belfast looking towards Tigers Bay where three Police Land Rovers form a police line during further unrest. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Irish nationalists are seen near "peace wall" gates into Lanark Way as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

Irish nationalists are seen near "peace wall" gates into Lanark Way as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

Irish nationalists are seen near “peace wall” gates into Lanark Way as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

An Irish nationalist stands amongst smoke from the fire near "peace wall" gates into Lanark Way as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

An Irish nationalist stands amongst smoke from the fire near "peace wall" gates into Lanark Way as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

An Irish nationalist stands amongst smoke from the fire near “peace wall” gates into Lanark Way as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

The wreckage of a Translink Metrobus on fire on the Shankill Road in Belfast during further unrest. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The wreckage of a Translink Metrobus on fire on the Shankill Road in Belfast during further unrest. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The wreckage of a Translink Metrobus on fire on the Shankill Road in Belfast during further unrest. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

People stand next to a fire in a street in Belfast during further unrest. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

People stand next to a fire in a street in Belfast during further unrest. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

People stand next to a fire in a street in Belfast during further unrest. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A man breaks up wood for a fire in a street in Belfast during further unrest. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A man breaks up wood for a fire in a street in Belfast during further unrest. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A man breaks up wood for a fire in a street in Belfast during further unrest. Picture date: Wednesday April 7, 2021. PA Photo. The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. See PA story ULSTER Disorder. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A man walks past a hijacked bus burning on The Shankill Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

A man walks past a hijacked bus burning on The Shankill Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

A man walks past a hijacked bus burning on The Shankill Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

Police vehicles are seen as a hijacked bus burns on The Shankill Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

Police vehicles are seen as a hijacked bus burns on The Shankill Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

Police vehicles are seen as a hijacked bus burns on The Shankill Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

Fire fed by petrol burns as youths clashed at the Peace Gate at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface on April 7, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Violence broke out after a Loyalist protest, with youths attacking police officers and petrol-bombing a bus. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

“Those involved in violence, criminal damage, manipulation of our young people and attacks on the police must stop.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin condemned the violence in a statement early this morning, writing; “I condemn the violence and attacks on the police that we have witnessed over the last number of days in The North.

“The only way forward is to address issues of concern through peaceful and democratic means. This evening’s attacks on a journalist and bus driver are deeply concerning and are in no one’s interests.

“Now is the time for the two Governments and leaders on all sides to work together to defuse tensions and restore calm.”

He added; “My Government has listened to and will continue to listen to and engage with the views of all communities in Northern Ireland. But the way to address genuine issues of concern is through peaceful and democratic means.”

Violent scenes including attacks on police, petrol bombings and rioting have taken place repeatedly on the streets of Belfast and Derry throughout the past week.

Wednesday night saw a bus hijacked and set on fire, a press photographer assaulted and clashes between loyalists and nationalists at peace line street that links the Shankill Road with the Springfield Road in west Belfast.

Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney told RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland that it is a time for political leaders to come together in the North, “instead of having a go at each other”.

“It is a time of real tension in Northern Ireland, unfortunately,” he said.

“Political leaders need to defuse tension and come together, instead of having a go at each other.

“To see an attempt, in particular, an attempt to incite a response, from the loyalist community into the nationalist community, that is indeed worrying.

“Over the last number of nights now, we have seen attacks on the PSNI, rioting involving young youths predominantly.

“This needs to stop before someone is killed or very seriously injured. We need to reduce and calm tensions, that needs to start at the top.

“Justice Minister Naomi Long speaks a lot of sense,” Minister Coveney continued. 

“Unionists and unionist leaders are furious following an attendance at a funeral but, you know, there are processes that can be followed to look at decisions that have been made.

“That’s the way to do this – through good politics, through necessary investigations.

“The PSNI were deliberately attacked by young loyalist rioters. The driver of a bus was almost seriously injured, buses torched, petrol bombs flung over walls. 

“These are scenes we haven’t seen in a very long times, scenes many people thought were consigned to history.”

Minister Coveney said it is “not helpful” for him to criticise First Minister Arlene Foster’s tweet; “We need to be working with the First Minister. All leaders have a responsibility to be careful. We need to create a sense of unity.”

The scenes of violence flooded social media and prompted UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to appeal for calm.

He tweeted: “I am deeply concerned by the scenes of violence in Northern Ireland, especially attacks on PSNI who are protecting the public and businesses, attacks on a bus driver and the assault of a journalist.

“The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality.”

The unrest has been attributed to tension in loyalist communities over the Northern Ireland Protocol on Brexit and the PSNI’s handling of alleged coronavirus regulation breaches by Sinn Fein at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey.

First Minister Arlene Foster condemned the attacks on Twitter, saying: “There is no justification for violence. It is wrong and should stop.”

“This is not protest. This is vandalism and attempted murder. These actions do not represent unionism or loyalism.

“They are an embarrassment to Northern Ireland and only serve to take the focus off the real law breakers in Sinn Fein. My thoughts are with the bus driver.”

Irish premier Micheal Martin also condemned Wednesday night’s events, tweeting: “I utterly condemn the violent attacks on police, a journalist, and bus driver over recent days in The North.

“Now is the time for the two Governments and leaders on all sides to work together to defuse tensions and restore calm.”

Plans to recall the Assembly were already underway after Alliance Party leader Naomi Long secured the required support of 30 members to force a return.

Ms Long – who serves as Justice Minister – said it is her party’s intention to get all parties at Stormont to “unite around a call for calm and the cessation of violence”.

Some 41 police officers had been injured and 10 people arrested over the disturbances, prior to the events on Wednesday night.

Ms Long told RTE that she also wants to hear all elected representatives express confidence in policing structures and in the rule of law.

“Over the last number of weeks we have heard increasingly inflammatory public comments around policing in Northern Ireland, political comments that have been deeply and profoundly unsettling and we have then seen this spill over into violence on the streets,” she said.

“These situations and intentions of course then will be exploited by those in paramilitary organisations, so it is incumbent on all of us who are in leadership at a time like this to come together and to speak with one voice to say that this violence must stop and irrespective of our various political views, that we do not support it, that we do not want to see it continue but more than that, that we are absolutely committed to the rule of law and to fair and equitable policing across our society.”

The violence has been blamed on anger in response to a decision by the Public Prosecution Service not to pursue prosecutions against members of Sinn Fein who attended the funeral of Mr Storey last year despite restrictions over gatherings, as well as Brexit and localised issues in the south-east Antrim area.

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Source: Irish News