Northern Ireland is currently experiencing some of its worst violence in years, with riots breaking out and police officers being injured across the country. You may be wondering what the cause of all this violence is? So here is everything you need to know about what’s currently happening in Northern Ireland.
When did the violence start?
There has always been a lot of tension in Northern Ireland, with one period of violence lasting from the late 1960s until 1998, known as ‘The Troubles’. This violence ended with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, and although tensions remained, violence has not been as bad as it was until now.
The current violence and clashes in Northern Ireland started in late March 2021, with a series of riots taking place, beginning in Waterside, Derry on March 30th. The violence soon spread, and by April 2nd, there was also violence and riots in Belfast.
What is happening?
There have been numerous riots, many including iron bars, bricks, masonry, and even petrol bombs. Some people have even claimed that the violence is worse now than it was during the troubles in Ireland. On April 7th, a double-decker bus in Belfast was hijacked and set on fire with petrol bombs in broad daylight. Due to all the violence and targeted aggression towards the police, with dozens of officers being injured, undercover special force soldiers have now been deployed in Northern Ireland.
Who is doing it and why?
So far, it is believed that the people causing the rioting are loyalist youths from the predominately protestant areas in Northern Ireland. It has been reported that children as young as 13 have been involved in the riots, which have occurred nearly every night since they began in late March. The loyalists are angry with the Irish Government over Brexit, although there may be other political factors involved.
Northern Ireland is the only country in the United Kingdom that shares a border with an EU country, and because of this, an Irish Sea border has been imposed because of the UK-EU Brexit deal. It was introduced so that there was no need for a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, but this also means that Northern Ireland remains in the EU single goods market. This means products being moved from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland will have to be done under the EU import procedures.
This has upset many people in Ireland, including the loyalist community, who support Northern Ireland being part of the UK, support the monarchy, and oppose the idea of a united Ireland. The UK-EU Brexit deal has also meant that all of Northern Ireland’s ports enforce EU custom rules, even though they are part of the UK and not the EU.
Where is it happening?
Derry (also known as Londonderry), Ballymena, Belfast, Carrickfergus and Newtonabbey are all predominately protestant areas in Northern Ireland.
What happens next?
Since the announcement of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death on April 9th, violence has seemed to slow down in Northern Ireland, although this does not mean it marks the end. One of the country’s main church leaders, Reverend David Bruce, told BBC Radio 4 that:
“The death of the Duke of Edinburgh is, of course, deeply distressing to everyone and has resulted in a slowing perhaps but I wouldn’t be optimistic that it’s going to result to an end of this”
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is resisting the increasing calls for a special crisis summit to be held with Dublin, although if violence continues and tensions continue to rise, this may be inevitable. However, this summit could upset the unionists in Ireland who do not want to be involved with matters of Northern Ireland.
How do I keep safe?
During the current violence in Northern Ireland, people are advised to be very careful when they talk about politics or religion, as there are two very heated matters in the country. Although the riots are happening all over the place at varying times, they seem to be a lot worse during the night, so it is probably a wise idea to stay inside if you can once the sun starts to set.