Who are loyalists in Northern Ireland?April 8, 2021
VIOLENT riots have broken out in Northern Ireland amid growing frustrations among many pro-British unionist at the post-Brexit barriers between region and the rest of the UK.
Nightly outbreaks of protests have escalated to the point of attacks on police officers and the setting alight of a hijacked bus.
Who are loyalists in Northern Ireland?
Loyalists in Northern Ireland are those who want to remain part of the UK.
They want to keep the Protestant-majority province, also known as Ulster , under British rule.
Parts of the region remain deeply split along sectarian lines, 23 years after a peace deal largely ended three decades of bloodshed.
Many Catholic nationalists aspire to unification with Ireland while Protestant unionists want to stay in the UK.
Belfast, Londonderry, Newtownabbey, Carrickfergus and Ballymena have all seen violence flare up following a surge in discontent within the loyalist community over the Irish Sea border since the end of the Brexit transition period.
Loyalists and unionists are angry about post-Brexit trading arrangements, which they claim have created barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Why is there rioting and disorder in loyalist areas?
At heart, the street disorder in various parts of Northern Ireland is loyalist anger at post-Brexit trading arrangements that have created economic barriers between the region and the rest of the UK.
For loyalists, Brexit's Northern Ireland Protocol has undermined their place in the Union.
But it took an event unrelated to the Irish Sea border furore to set a match to resentment that has been simmering since the consequences of exiting the EU became a reality at the start of January.
Tensions ramped up further following a controversial decision not to prosecute 24 Sinn Fein politicians for attending a large-scale republican funeral during Covid-19 restrictions.
All the main unionist parties have demanded the resignation of PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne, claiming he has lost the confidence of their community.
The controversy over the Protocol and controversy has built upon a narrative created by an increasing number within the loyalist community that the peace process, in particular the Good Friday agreement of 1998, has handed them an unfair deal.
They cite underinvestment and deprivation in loyalist working class areas as further proof that they have missed out on the gains of peace – something which nationalists and republicans dismiss.
Paramilitary elements are undoubtedly involved in much of the disorder witnessed across the region – either directly or by orchestrating young people to riot on their behalf.
On Friday, April 2, eight police officers were injured after being targeted in Sandy Row, Belfast, by a crowd of mostly young people throwing bottles, bricks and fireworks.
It came after four successive nights of disturbances in the unionist Waterside area of Londonderry.
Then, on Wednesday, April 7, crowds of youths in a pro-British area of Belfast set the hijacked bus on fire on a busy street.
The incident took place near one of Belfast's so-called "peace walls" that divide some Irish nationalist and unionist communities.
Large groups threw fireworks, bricks and petrol bombs at each other from either side of the large structure.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "deeply concerned" by the violence, which has injured dozens of police officers.
His Irish counterpart, Micheal Martin, called on Dublin, London and all parties in Northern Ireland to work together to ease tensions and restore calm.
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