Police come under attack as fresh unrest breaks out in west Belfast

Furniture set on fire in the middle of the Shankill Road as protests return

There was a further unrest in west Belfast on Monday evening.

Furniture was set on fire in the middle of the Shankill Road close to where a bus was set alight earlier this month.

Police attended to monitor crowds gathered across Lanark Way and the Shankill Road on the loyalist side of the nearby peace line. Officers came under sporadic attack.

Calm had been restored to the scene by about 9pm; however, some crowds remained in the area.

Meanwhile, peaceful loyalist protests took place in other locations, including in Newtownards, Co Down.

In the latter town, loyalists staged a parade holding an anti-Northern Ireland protocol banner, and walked from the West Winds area to Newtownards police station.

Earlier the Loyalist Communities Council held a small demonstration outside Irish Government offices in Belfast over the protocol.

Loyalists have vowed to resume protest action against post-Brexit trading arrangements that have created new bureaucracy on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

They claim the Northern Ireland protocol, a measure within the UK-EU withdrawal agreement that gives the North its special post-Brexit trading status, has undermined the region’s place within the union.

It comes after a break in protests of about a week, following a succession of days where violence broke out following a number of loyalist protests across Northern Ireland.

The worst of the trouble came on both sides of the peace wall gates at Lanark Way on Wednesday, April 7th, and Thursday, April 8th, during which police used plastic bullets and water cannon against the crowds.

Protests were temporarily paused following the death of Prince Philip.

Loyalist anger

Loyalist anger at the protocol has been cited as one of the main factors behind the violence that erupted earlier this month.

Another was the decision not to prosecute 24 Sinn Féin members for Covid-19 breaches after they attended a mass republican funeral during the pandemic.

There are also more long-standing concerns held by some loyalists that they have missed out on the gains of the peace process in areas such as jobs, investment and housing.

Nationalists reject those contentions and insist their communities experience just as many problems with poverty.

The violence was unanimously condemned across the Stormont Assembly after it was recalled from Easter recess for a special meeting on April 8th.

It was also condemned by British prime minister Boris Johnson and Taoiseach Micheál Martin, as well as church leaders.– PA