Northern Ireland

Fresh disturbances at west Belfast flashpoint amid fears of weekend protests by loyalists

Rioters confront the police lines on the Springfield Road. Picture by Mal McCann.
Rioters confront the police lines on the Springfield Road. Picture by Mal McCann. Rioters confront the police lines on the Springfield Road. Picture by Mal McCann.

RIOTERS were blasted with a water cannon by police last night following fresh disturbances in Belfast.

Stones, petrol bombs and fireworks were thrown at police by gangs of youths gathered on the nationalist Springfield Road in the west of the city, close to where Wednesday night's riots took place.

After shocking scenes of violence at the Lanark Way interface provoked calls for calm, trouble again flared up amid rising tensions in the area.

Video footage emerged last night of residents and republican community workers moving in to quell the trouble and stop youths - who also attempted to bloke the road - from throwing petrol bombs.

The Irish News understands that police fear serious disorder at a series of planned loyalist parades and protests across parts of the north this evening and tomorrow.

PSNI officers were seen holding riot shields and being pelted with missiles before causing the youths to flee by charging at them with dogs.

It came as the Irish and British governments, and also the US Biden administration appealed for calm yesterday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and taoiseach Michéal Martin made a joint call for calm after speaking over the phone about the violent clashes in mainly loyalist areas over the last week.

In a statement, the Irish Government said the two leaders stressed that violence was unacceptable.

Separately Secretary of State Brandon Lewis flew into Northern Ireland for talks with politicians, community and faith leaders. He is expected to hold further talks today.

Earlier he welcomed a united message of condemnation of the violence by the Stormont parties and said there could be no justification for it.

Mr Lewis also expressed his confidence in PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne, who the DUP has urged to resign over a decision by prosecutors not to pursue Sinn Fein politicians over alleged coronavirus breaches at a funeral last year.

Earlier in the day the Stormont assembly, which was recalled from Easter recess for an emergency sitting, unanimously passed a motion calling for an end to the disorder.

Meanwhile former police ombudsman Baroness Nuala O'Loan has criticised First Minister Arlene Foster for calling for the resignation of Mr Bryne.

Lady O'Loan said:

"We have a police authority to call him to account, we have a police ombudsman if somebody wants to make a complaint.

"We do have process, but more importantly the starting point for all this was the Bobby Storey funeral."