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Home World Northern Ireland in flames: sectarian conflict escalates

Northern Ireland in flames: sectarian conflict escalates

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The riots in Northern Ireland are in their sixth day. Groups of Catholic and predominantly British Protestant communities advocating the unification of the island of Ireland clashed at several points in Belfast, Carrickfergus, Londonderry, Newtownabbey and Ballymena, throwing Molotov cocktails and stones at each other and the police. A city bus was also set on fire in Belfast. Fifty-five police officers have so far been taken to hospital following the resurgence of sectarian conflict.

A cyclist passes by the remains of a burnt-out bus in west Belfast on 7 April 2021.
MTI / AP / Peter Morrison

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the situation was worrying. Protestant and Catholic parties in the Belfast parliament, Stormont, also condemned the clashes. The Stormont is holding an extraordinary meeting today, with MPs being called to work from the Easter break, the BBC writes.

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Arlene Foster, the first minister in Northern Ireland, has repeatedly called on protesters to end the violence. According to him, the riots are neither Irish parties nor crowned British parties, but simply bring shame to the country.

The recurrence of the conflict dates back to last year, when leading politicians from the largest anti-British Catholic party, Sinn Féin, attended the funeral of Bobby Storey, a late intelligence chief in the Irish Republican Army (IRA), in violation of anti-corona virus measures. Arlene Foster, who is the leader of the largest pro-British Protestant force, the Democratic Unionist Party, has prosecuted them, but the prosecution has eventually decided not to prosecute the politicians. According to British press sources

British parties have resorted to violence in frustration with the decision, but the situation is also exacerbated by the effects of coronavirus measures and British EU exit, Brexit.

The bloody conflict in Northern Ireland, which lasted for decades, was brought to an end by the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which requires the parties representing the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland to form a unity government. One of the main achievements of the Good Friday agreement is the complete abolition of control of the once military austerity at the 499-kilometer Irish-Northern border; physical boundaries now virtually do not exist. Since then, with the exception of minor street and political skirmishes, there has been relative peace, but between 2017 and 2020, for example, neither the government nor the autonomous parliament functioned due to a domestic political scandal and then political debates over the status of the Irish language.

Catholic nationalist and Protestant loyalist riots clash in west Belfast on April 7, 2021.
MTI / AP / Peter Morrison

Our paper also recently wrote an analysis of the fact that Brexit has also intensified the political aspirations of the Northern Irish in support of their stay in the UK and the unification of Ireland.



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