Despite appeals for calm from London, Dublin and Washington, new violence broke out on the evening of Thursday April 8 in Northern Ireland. In Belfast, riot police received stones and Molotov cocktails as they tried to prevent the crowd of Republican demonstrators from heading towards their Unionist counterparts, a journalist from Agence France-Presse (AFP) found. .
Tension was still palpable in Belfast at the end of the day, despite the apparent calm. Teenagers were already piling bricks in a supermarket cart, reports an AFP journalist.
It has been a week since the British province has been agitated by these unprecedented clashes since 1998, with a lot of projectile throws at the police and vehicles set on fire, mainly in loyalist areas with a Protestant majority.
This violence, which has so far left more than 50 injured in the police, brings up the specter of the 3,500 deaths that occurred during the three decades of the “Troubles” between Republicans, mainly Catholics in favor of reunification with Ireland, and Protestant unionists, fervent defenders of membership in the United Kingdom.
Calls for calm
The new clashes erupted despite calls for calm earlier today from the British and Irish Prime Ministers, joining their voices to those of the leaders of Northern Ireland.
Ahead of a special sitting of the local parliament, the Northern Irish government, made up of Unionists and Republicans, issued a joint statement denouncing violence “Completely unacceptable and unjustifiable, whatever the concerns”, calling to cease “Attacks on the police, public services and communities”.
Boris Johnson, who dispatched his Minister for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis to the site, met in the afternoon with his Irish counterpart, Micheal Martin.
“Stressing that violence is unacceptable, they called for calm, reacted Dublin. It is through dialogue and work on the institutions set up by the Good Friday Agreement [qui a mis fin aux Troubles en 1998] that we must move forward. “
The White House also called for calm, telling itself “Concerned” by this violence which occurs when Joe Biden, proud of his Irish origins, had already expressed his concerns about the consequences of Brexit for peace in the province.
Border controls denounced
Brexit has weakened the delicate balance in the province, by requiring the introduction of customs controls between the United Kingdom and the European Union (EU).
Intended to avoid the return of a physical border between the British province and the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, controls are held in Northern Irish ports. Despite a grace period to allow companies to adapt, these new provisions disrupt supplies and are denounced by Unionists as a border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and a betrayal on the part of London.
Last week, violence first broke out in the city of Londonderry, before spreading to a loyalist neighborhood in Belfast and its surroundings during the Easter weekend.
“We had not seen disturbances of this magnitude for several years in Belfast and elsewhere”said police official Jonathan Roberts, pointing to the participation in the clashes of young people as young as 13 or 14 “Encouraged” by adults.