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P
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April 9, 2021

Stormont ministers unite to slam violence, rioting

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P
Pa
April 9, 2021

BELFAST: Ministers in the Stormont Executive have condemned the violence and rioting that has erupted in Northern Ireland, prompting united calls for calm to be restored.

The Northern Ireland Executive issued a joint statement following a meeting of the powersharing administration to discuss the escalating public disorder.

Assembly members also united to condemn the violence, unanimously passing an Alliance motion after being recalled to discuss the scenes.

Earlier ministers were given an update by PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne.

In a statement, the Executive said: “We are gravely concerned by the scenes we have all witnessed on our streets over the last week, including those at the Lanark Way interface last night.

“Attacks on police officers, public services and communities are deplorable and they must stop. Destruction, violence and the threat of violence are completely unacceptable and unjustifiable, no matter what concerns may exist in communities. Those who would seek to use and abuse our children and young people to carry out these attacks have no place in our society.

“While our political positions are very different on many issues, we are all united in our support for law and order and we collectively state our support for policing and for the police officers who have been putting themselves in harm’s way to protect others.”

The Stormont Assembly was recalled from Easter recess for an emergency sitting on Thursday to debate the violence, which has mostly flared in loyalist areas. The Assembly was recalled following a motion put forward by Alliance leader Naomi Long calling for MLAs to unequivocally condemn those involved and support the rule of law.

Speaking during the Assembly debate, DUP leader Arlene Foster said the scenes witnessed were “totally unacceptable”.

The First Minister said the injuries to police officers, harm to Northern Ireland’s image and people’s property has taken the region backwards.

Justice Minister Ms Long said her thoughts are with the police officers who suffered what she said “could be life-changing injuries”.

“It is a mercy that no one has lost their life as a result of this appalling violence and I would appeal again for everyone with influence in our community to use it to end this,” she added.

Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said illegal loyalist paramilitaries and criminal elements are influencing young people and orchestrating the violence. “They are holding back their own people and they are holding back their own community.”

Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken said the riots were “completely unacceptable”.

“The imagery this portrays of 21st century Northern Ireland into our second century is not something that anyone should want to see. This violence must stop before anyone is killed. Earlier, the PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said 55 police officers have been injured across several nights of disorder in Northern Ireland.

In the latest scenes on Wednesday night at the Lanark Way peace wall gates in west Belfast, several hundred people gathered on each side from 5pm which escalated to “significant disorder”.

Roberts said multiple petrol bombs and missiles, including fireworks and heavy masonry, were thrown and it is “clear there was a degree of organisation” of the violence.