British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he is “deeply concerned” by loyalist violence after a bus was hijacked and set on fire amid scenes of widespread disorder in west Belfast last night.
rowds gathered at Lanark Way and West Circular Road at its junction with the Springfield Road.
Amid rioting the bus was attacked at the junction of Lanark Way and the Shankill Road, and police were pelted with stones.
Police advised the public to avoid the area and appealed to those with influence to help restore calm.
Videos circulating online show the bus being hit with petrol bombs and having its windows smashed, although no passengers were injured.
Mr Johnson condemned attacks on police.
“The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality,” he said.
First Minister Arlene Foster said the scenes were not protest. “This is vandalism and attempted murder,” she said.
“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 Féin. My thoughts are with the bus driver.” Ms Foster’s reference to Sinn Féin drew condemnation, however.
Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson tweeted: “Arlene will you please step up to the plate. These are the ‘real law breakers’ call it out and show some degree of leadership before someone is seriously injured or killed.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill described the disturbances as “disgraceful scenes of criminality”.
“Unequivocal condemnation needed and protests should be called off immediately – police need support not politicking,” she posted online.
There was round condemnation also after a Belfast Telegraph photographer was attacked while on duty although he was not seriously injured.
Taoiseach Michéal Martin condemned the violent attacks in Northern Ireland on the journalist and bus driver.
“I condemn the violence and attacks on the police that we have witnessed over the last number of days in the North,” he said in a statement.
“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.”
He added that it’s time for “the two governments and leaders on all sides to work together to defuse tensions and restore calm”.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said: “Attacks on police, journalists and citizens must be condemned by all. There are peaceful, democratic and legal channels to address all issues and concerns. Calm and positive leadership needed from all.”
The Stormont Assembly has been recalled from Easter recess today to discuss the ongoing loyalist violence following the decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Féin who attended the funeral of IRA man Bobby Storey, and also over the Northern Ireland Brexit Protocol.
Since rioting broke out last week, 41 police officers have been injured during disorder.
Loyalists are expected to hold a number of unnotified parades across Northern Ireland this weekend in an act of “civil disobedience” intended to stretch police resources in the wake of further serious rioting last night, raising fears of more violence.
Source: Irish News