Northern Ireland news

Taoiseach warns of Brexit sectarian tension risk

Loyalists clash with police in Belfast earlier this month

The taoiseach has warned of “very serious harm” if Brexit is used to create sectarian tension, with loyalist protests due to restart this evening.

Micheál Martin said it had become clear in recent weeks what can happen “when sectarian tensions are left to grow and are then encouraged by political events”.

The Fianna Fáil leader made the comments at his party’s annual 1916 commemoration yesterday at Arbour Hill Cemetery in Dublin.

Protests over anger at the Irish Sea border and a decision not to prosecute Sinn Féin members who attended Bobby Storey’s funeral during coronavirus restrictions began on Good Friday.

They were originally targeted at notorious sectarian flashpoints in Belfast and descended into days of serious rioting.

Eighty-eight police officers were injured and children as young as 13 were among those arrested.

Mr Martin said: “The terrible scenes on the streets of Belfast have deep roots which we must challenge – and it falls to all of us to play a constructive and moderating role.”

Mr Martin described the Northern Ireland Protocol as “a fair conclusion to attempts to limit the potential destructiveness of Brexit on this island”.

“It is complex but it is nowhere near as complex as it is presented,” he said.

Loyalist protests are expected to restart this evening, following a week-long cessation since the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

It is understood that unnotified band parades will take place with the spectre of major road blocks returning for the first time since the disruptive flag protests of 2013.

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