Despite calls for calm from London, Dublin and Washington, further violence erupted Thursday evening in Northern Ireland. In Belfast, riot police, who are facing Republican protesters, received stones and Molotov cocktails as they tried to prevent the crowd from heading towards their Unionist counterparts, an Agence France journalist found. Press (AFP). Riot police pushed them back with a water cannon. The tension was palpable there at the end of the day, despite the apparent calm. Teenagers were already piling bricks in a supermarket cart, an AFP journalist noted.
Since the agreement of Good Friday, reigns a “peace on the surface”, argues Fiona McMahon, a resident of Belfast of 56 years. “It is deeply rooted, it is not only because of Brexit”, she continues, estimating that the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has “nothing to do with here”.
Many appeals for calm
It has been a week since the British province has been agitated by these unprecedented clashes since 1998, with a large reinforcement of projectiles thrown at the police and vehicles set on fire, mainly in loyalist areas with a Protestant majority.
This violence, which has so far left more than 50 injured in the police, brings up the specter of the 3,500 deaths that occurred during the three decades of the “Troubles” between Republicans, mainly Catholics in favor of reunification with the Ireland, and Protestant unionists, fervent defenders of membership in the United Kingdom.
During the day, British and Irish Prime Ministers joined their voices to those of the leaders of Northern Ireland, Unionists as well as Republicans, to condemn this “unacceptable” violence and call for calm. An appeal also launched by the White House, saying it is “concerned” by this violence which takes place while Joe Biden, proud of his Irish origins, had already expressed his concerns about the consequences of Brexit for peace in the province.
The frontier of discord
Brexit has weakened the delicate balance in the province, requiring the introduction of customs controls between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
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Intended to avoid the return of a physical border between the British province and the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, controls are held in Northern Irish ports. Despite a grace period to allow companies to adapt, these new provisions disrupt supplies and are denounced by Unionists as a border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and a betrayal on the part of London.