Leaders urged to break recent cycle of street violence
POLITICIANS and community leaders have been urged to use their influence to break the recent cycle of street violence.
The appeal came from SDLP leader Colum Eastwood after he and his Stormont counterparts yesterday held talks with Secretary of State Brandon Lewis and Chief Constable Simon Byrne.
The secretary of state convened the talks after a week of disorder, mostly in loyalist areas of Belfast, Derry and Co Antrim.
The Northern Ireland Office chose not to release any statement about the talks, as a mark of respect following the Duke of Edinburgh's death.
Mr Lewis is also understood to have met loyalist community leaders and spoken with representatives of the north's main churches.
It is believed the virtual meeting involving the political leaders focused on PSNI operational matters over recent nights.
Unionists have blamed violence on the Irish Sea border and the failure to prosecute senior Sinn Féin figures over Covid regulation breaches at last June's funeral of senior republican Bobby Storey.
Ahead of the meeting, Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill called on political leaders to unite in calling for an end to loyalist protests, which she said were fuelling community tensions.
"We have engaged with the leadership of the PSNI and we will be telling the British secretary of state today of the need for police to be visible, vigilant and providing communities with the reassurance that they and their property are safe from attack," she said.
“We will set out the need for interface area plans to be developed and actioned to keep communities safe this weekend."
After the meeting with Mr Lewis, Mr Eastwood said: "Over the last 24 hours we've met with party leaders, the British and Irish governments, the chief constable and working class communities in Belfast and Derry.
"The will to end the violence that we've seen on our streets exists, it's important now that we all use our influence to reduce tensions and provide the young people trapped in this cycle of destruction with some hope."
Taoiseach Micheal Martin, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden have all called for a calming of tensions.
The Stormont assembly was recalled from Easter recess on Thursday for an emergency sitting and unanimously backed a motion calling for the unequivocal condemnation of the violence and support for the rule of law.