EXECUTIVE TO MEET AFTER NIGHT OF VIOLENCE

THE Stormont Executive is to meet this morning to be briefed on the ongoing rioting and violence seen over the last week.

Leaders 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.

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

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 at Lanark Way that links the Shankill Road with the Springfield Road in west Belfast.

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 IRA chief Bobby Storey last June in west Belfast.

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.”

A total of 55 police officers have now been injured as a result of the violence over the past week in Northern Ireland.

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