Friday, April 16, 2021

Another night of violence in Northern Ireland. Politicians call for calm

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Enric Fontcuberta / EPA

Demonstrators in Belfast set fire to a bus and attacked the police this Wednesday night, on the fourth day of violence in a week in Northern Ireland.

The youths attacked the police with gasoline bombs this Wednesday night in the Protestant area of ​​Shankill Road, while other protesters threw objects in both directions over the “peace wall” that separates Shankill Road from a neighboring Irish nationalist area .

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the disturbances, and the Government of Northern Ireland, based in Belfast, will hold an emergency meeting on the disturbances this Thursday.

Johnson called for calm, saying that “the way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality.”

Northern Ireland Prime Minister Arlene Foster of the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (Unionists) and Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Fein nationalists have condemned the disorder and attacks on the police. .

Recent violence, largely in pro-British areas, has increased due to growing tensions over post-Brexit trade rules to Northern Ireland and worsened relations between parties in the Belfast Government, shared between Catholics and Protestants.

These outbreaks of violence on Wednesday night followed riots over Easter weekend in areas in and around Belfast and Londonderry, with cars on fire and attacks on police. Authorities accused illegal paramilitary groups of inciting young people to cause confusion.

The new trade agreement between London and the EU bloc imposed customs and border controls on some goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

The agreement was designed to avoid controls between Northern Ireland and Ireland, an EU member, as an open Irish border helped to sustain the peace process built by the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which ended at the time with three decades of violence that caused more than three thousand deaths.

But unionists have argued that these new controls amount to a new border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, advocating abandoning the agreement.

Unionists are also disgusted by the police authorities’ decision not to prosecute Sinn Féin politicians who attended the funeral of a former Irish Republican army commander last June.

O funeral de Bobby Storey it attracted a large crowd, despite the restrictive measures applied in the context of the pandemic and which prohibited large crowds of people.

The main unionist parties demanded the dismissal of the Northern Ireland police chief because of the controversy, arguing that the person responsible had lost the trust of the community.

Ireland calls for London’s active commitment to peace deal

“The protocol helps us to maintain the north-south relationship” in Ireland, said Thomas Byrne, Irish Minister for European Affairs, in an interview with the Lusa agency, referring to the provision of the United Kingdom’s Withdrawal Agreement from the European Union which maintains British territory in line with the rules of the single market.

“But we need Britain to engage actively in maintaining the Good Friday Agreement, with us and with the European Union ”, also stressed the minister.

In the interview, carried out on the sidelines of a visit to Lisbon, Byrne explained that Brexit “caused a huge problem to the island of Ireland” and that it was precisely “to try to solve some of the problems” created by the exit of the United Kingdom from the EU that was negotiated the Protocol, which “contributes greatly to ensuring the free movement of people and goods on the island of Ireland”.

The minister stresses that “Unilateral actions cause problems”, which was “demonstrated” by London’s decision to extend the grace period for certain customs controls in Northern Ireland ports for six months, until 1 October, to point out that Britain “has to implement the protocol”.

“We all have to implement the protocol, but the British are lacking in this particular aspect”, he points out, stressing that the EU has initiated an infringement procedure, but also talks.

“I want to see these talks go on, because in Northern Ireland, problems are never solved through legal actions, they are solved talking and working together”, He insists.

Thomas Byrne admits that the announcement by the European Commission, at the end of January, of the activation of article 16 of the protocol, which allows the suspension of that chapter of the Withdrawal Agreement, to halt the arrival of vaccines against covid-19 to the United Kingdom via Northern Ireland, “it was a mistake”, but underlines that Brussels “recognized very quickly that it was a mistake”.

“I think it happened because technicians did what technically they were supposed to do. But no reference was made to that particular situation in Northern Ireland, which unfortunately gave people, particularly in the most extreme unionist communities, an excuse to say, ‘well, Europe doesn’t care about us, try to do this to us’ ” , he considered.

Little things cause problems. But this is resolved when it recognizes that there was a problem, the problem is corrected and both parties work to prevent it from happening again ”, he insisted, reiterating the call to London“ to continue to work with the EU to solve the problem of pragmatic way ”.

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