Worst disorder in Londonderry for years amid political vacuum and Brexit tensions
Unionist and Nationalist parties in Northern Ireland made a rare joint statement calling for calm on Friday after six consecutive nights of rioting in Londonderry. The violence was blamed on dissident Irish republicans who reject Sinn Féin’s support for the Good Friday deal. Earlier in the week, pro-British loyalists were blamed for violence in Belfast on the eve of celebrations to mark the 1690 Battle of the Boyne, an event they hold dear.
The tension comes after 19 months in which the region has been without an executive after a breakdown in relations between the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Féin, putting pressure on the Good Friday peace pact of 1998 that ended decades of lethal sectarian conflict. The deadlock is made worse by Brexit. The DUP backs leaving the EU, Sinn Féin opposes and the British and Irish government are divided on the future status of the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. With no talks under way, a sharp escalation of tensions in the region’s biggest towns brought parties together this week to say society must “stand with those who maintain law and order and who protect all sides of our community”.
The plea for calm was signed by the DUP, Sinn Féin and three smaller parties. Recommended Instant Insight Sebastian Payne Northern Ireland needs a government not another referendum Before the violence London and Dublin had already resolved to call a meeting in late July of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, a body of UK and Irish ministers that was set up under the Good Friday pact but has not met for years. They will discuss the region’s political institutions, many suspended since January 2017, and bilateral questions. The Police Service of Northern Ireland condemned the discovery of two explosive devices early on Friday that it said were hurled at officers in Londonderry.
“This is the second bid this week to murder police officers in the city,” said Gordon McCalmont, a PSNI superintendent. Karen Bradley, UK minister for the region, hit out at the violence: “The disorder in Derry/Londonderry last night, including targeted attacks on police vehicles and others, was completely unacceptable.” A spokesman for Simon Coveney, Irish deputy premier, said all parties should return to the executive. “What happened in Derry is utterly disgraceful but we do welcome the joint statement by the Northern Irish parties calling for this to stop.”