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PSNI officers on North Queen Street in Belfast this evening. PA

NI police attacked with bottles and stones in Belfast

This was one of a number of sporadic incidents of unrest in Northern Ireland this evening.

LAST UPDATE | 9 Apr 2021

POLICE IN NORTHERN Ireland have been attacked with missiles including bottles and stones in a loyalist area of Belfast this evening.

PSNI officers have attended the scene at Tiger Bay in north Belfast with riot vans and police dogs in tow.

It was one of a number of sporadic incidents of unrest in NI this evening, following reports of a road barricade which was set alight in Coleraine, Derry.

Chief Superintendent Muir Clark said: “We would appeal for calm in the area and ask anyone who has any influence in communities please, use that influence to ensure young people do not get caught up in criminality and that they are kept safe and away from harm tonight.”

The PSNI told people to avoid the area.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis today met with Stormont political parties to discuss the situation.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said she was “worried about the weekend ahead”.

O’Neill said: “As for the last number of days and the violence we have seen on our streets, that has to be condemned by all quarters.

“I welcome the fact that there is a unity of purpose across all political leaders to say that this is wrong and it needs to stop.”

She urged young people to not engage in the situation or allow themselves “to be used or manipulated in any sort of way”. 

“It’s really, really important that we stand shoulder to shoulder and say no to this type of criminal behaviour, and that we don’t allow our children to be sucked in by criminal gangs who are orchestrating some of what we see on our streets,” she said. 

Further unrest last night saw police use a water cannon for the first time in six years. 

Hundreds of boys and young men gathered in west Belfast with stones and fireworks were thrown at police on the nationalist Springfield Road, close to where riots took the night previous that saw a bus set on fire. 

Nationalist and unionist communities in Belfast are often separated by towering ‘peace walls’ to guard against projectiles. On Wednesday there were ugly scenes when part of this divide was breached. 

Speaking on The Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said that last night there was “sustained violence towards police office on both sides of the interface”. 

“We have had a further and 19 police officers injured during the course of the evening, bringing the total now over the last seven nights to 74 police officers,” he said. 

Roberts added that a police dog was also injured during last nights riot. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Sinn Féin party leader Mary Lou McDonald TD said that engagement with the PSNI must continue as she pushed for unionist leaders to prevent protests planned for this week to go ahead.  

“We met with the Chief Constable yesterday morning and engagement is ongoing with the PSNI.  The police need to be fully-resourced to carry out their task,” she said.

The second thing that needs to come from that meeting is a call right across politics and in particular from unionism to those groups that are proposing to continue their protests over the weekend, particularly at the peace lines and at these interface areas, to desist. Call those off and to stop now before things get more serious and before people are badly injured or worse. 

Speaking about those planned protests, Roberts said that police are anticipating for them to take place but are encouraging people not to attend. 

“I think we are aware of a number of planned events that are being advertised on social media and elsewhere where people are being encouraged to attend and protest. Whilst peaceful protest is one thing, those protests do have the potential to move into disorder,” he said. 

I would remind everybody that the health protection regulations remain in place. It is a breach of the regulations to take part in a gathering.

McDonald also called for “more engaged leadership” from both London and Dublin saying that the “whole peace arrangement….. relies on strong cooperation.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Michéal Martin and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed the “concerning developments” in Northern Ireland.

The Irish government said in a statement that both leaders “called for calm” and stressed that “violence is unacceptable”.

Unionist frustrations over the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol and the decision not to prosecute Sinn Féin members who attended the Bobby Storey funeral have led to scenes of violence in mainly loyalist areas over the past week.

- Additional reporting by Press Association.

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