Social Unrest in Rioting Belfast

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This week's rioting was one of the worst seen in Northern Ireland in recent years. The long-brewed tensions escalated as the Public Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute 24 Sinn Fein politicians for alleged coronavirus breaches during the funeral of a former IRA leader, Bobby Storey. The other story behind the disorder is the Brexit deal.

Protesters engaged in violent clashes with Police, throwing Molotov cocktails and stones at police officers, as well as burning tyres and blocking streets. Crowds of youths joined the protesters in a pro-British area, escalating violence and causing damage to public buildings, including a hijacked bus that was set on fire on 7 April. Police reported previously that at least 41 officers were injured during the nights of rioting in the city. 

The protests sparked in Belfast’s loyalist districts on 3 April as the authorities refused to prosecute members of the Sinn Fein political party over their attendance at the funeral of Bobby Storey, a former leader of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

The escalation comes amid a long-standing conflict between unionists, who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK, and republicans, who are calling for more independence from London and want to unite with the Republic of Ireland. 

Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol also appears to be at the heart of this week’s protest activity. Since the provisions created trade barriers between the mainland UK and Northern Ireland, many unionists have been calling for a legal challenge against the protocol to eliminate the border in the Irish Sea.

© REUTERS / Jason Cairnduff A man walks past a hijacked bus burning on The Shankill Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 7 April 2021.
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A man walks past a hijacked bus burning on The Shankill Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 7 April 2021.
© AP Photo / Peter MorrisonA Nationalist youth prepares to throw something at a police line blocking a road near the Peace Wall in West Belfast, Northern Ireland, Thursday, 8 April 2021. Authorities in Northern Ireland sought to restore calm Thursday after Protestant and Catholic youths in Belfast hurled bricks, fireworks and gasoline bombs at police and each other. It was the worst mayhem in a week of street violence in the region, where Britain's exit from the European Union has unsettled an uneasy political balance.
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A Nationalist youth prepares to throw something at a police line blocking a road near the Peace Wall in West Belfast, Northern Ireland, Thursday, 8 April 2021. Authorities in Northern Ireland sought to restore calm Thursday after Protestant and Catholic youths in Belfast hurled bricks, fireworks and gasoline bombs at police and each other. It was the worst mayhem in a week of street violence in the region, where Britain's exit from the European Union has unsettled an uneasy political balance.
© REUTERS / Jason Cairnduff Rioters are seen at the "peace wall" gate into Lanark Way as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 7 April 2021.
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Rioters are seen at the "peace wall" gate into Lanark Way as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 7 April 2021.
© REUTERS / Jason Cairnduff Rioters react as police use a water cannon on the Springfield Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland 8 April 2021.
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Rioters react as police use a water cannon on the Springfield Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland 8 April 2021.
© REUTERS / Jason Cairnduff A fire burns in front of the police on the Springfield Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland 8 April 2021.
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A fire burns in front of the police on the Springfield Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland 8 April 2021.
© REUTERS / Jason Cairnduff Rioters are seen near the "peace wall" gate into Lanark Way as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 7 April 2021.
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Rioters are seen near the "peace wall" gate into Lanark Way as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 7 April 2021.
© REUTERS / Jason Cairnduff A rioter reacts as the police uses a water cannon on the Springfield Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland 8 April 2021.
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A rioter reacts as the police uses a water cannon on the Springfield Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland 8 April 2021.
© REUTERS / Jason Cairnduff A rioter is seen near a burning car at the "peace wall" gate into Lanark Way as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 7 April 2021.
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A rioter is seen near a burning car at the "peace wall" gate into Lanark Way as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 7 April 2021.
© REUTERS / Jason Cairnduff Rioters throw burning bottles at the police on the Springfield Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland 8 April 2021.
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Rioters throw burning bottles at the police on the Springfield Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland 8 April 2021.
© AP Photo / Liam McBurneyYouths shoot fireworks at the PSNI on the Springfield road, during further unrest in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Thursday, 8 April 2021. Police and politicians in Northern Ireland have appealed for calm after a third night of violence that saw Protestant youths start fires and pelt officers with bricks and gasoline bombs. The flare-ups come amid rising tensions over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland and worsening relations between the parties in the Protestant-Catholic power-sharing Belfast government.
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Youths shoot fireworks at the PSNI on the Springfield road, during further unrest in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Thursday, 8 April 2021. Police and politicians in Northern Ireland have appealed for calm after a third night of violence that saw Protestant youths start fires and pelt officers with bricks and gasoline bombs. The flare-ups come amid rising tensions over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland and worsening relations between the parties in the Protestant-Catholic power-sharing Belfast government.
© REUTERS / Jason Cairnduff A hijacked bus burns on The Shankill Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 7 April 2021.
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A hijacked bus burns on The Shankill Road as protests continue in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 7 April 2021.
© AP Photo / Peter MorrisonA man walks past a burnt out bus on the Shankill Road in West Belfast, Northern Ireland, Thursday, 8 April 2021. The scene follows another night of violence in Loyalist areas that has now spread to interface areas of the peace divide.
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A man walks past a burnt out bus on the Shankill Road in West Belfast, Northern Ireland, Thursday, 8 April 2021. The scene follows another night of violence in Loyalist areas that has now spread to interface areas of the peace divide.
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