Rioters have been blasted with a water cannon by police as unrest stirred on the streets of Northern Ireland once again.
After calls for calm this week, violence again flared up on the streets of west Belfast on Thursday. Stones and fireworks were thrown at police by gangs of youths gathered on the nationalist Springfield Road, close to where riots took place on Wednesday night.
Those involved were warned by police to “disperse immediately or the water cannon will be used”. However, those present continued to fire missiles at police, and after several warnings, the water cannon was deployed. Some of those present jeered before fleeing as the water jet came closer.
The justice minister, Naomi Long, issued a fresh call for an end to the violence after what she called “depressing and reckless” scenes. She tweeted: “More attacks on police, this time from nationalist youths. Utterly reckless and depressing to see more violence at interface areas tonight.
“My heart goes out to those living in the area who are living with this fear and disturbance. This needs to stop now, before lives are lost.”
Wednesday night’s violence saw clashes along the peace wall that separates the unionist Shankill Road from the nationalist Springfield Road. But Thursday night’s unrest appeared to be confined to nationalists. Groups of community activists were seen attempting to prevent access to the gate of the peace line where clashes took place the previous night.
A heavy police presence was in operation on Thursday night, with water cannon, police dogs and the riot squad in place in a bid to quell another night of unrest. PSNI officers were seen holding riot shields and being pelted with missiles before charging the youths with dogs in order to drive them off.
Earlier, the UK prime minister and Irish premier made a joint appeal for calm after days of unrest in Northern Ireland. Boris Johnson and taoiseach Micheál Martin had spoken over the phone on Thursday about the violent clashes in mainly loyalist areas.
In a statement, the Irish government said the two leaders stressed that violence was unacceptable. “The way forward is through dialogue and working the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement,” the statement said. “[The leaders] agreed that the two governments would continue to stay in contact.”
The Biden administration in the US also appealed for calm in Northern Ireland and voiced its support for the Brexit protocol.