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Northern Ireland assembly holds emergency debate after six nights of violence - live

The Guardian - Thu Apr 8 10:50


Mervyn Storey, a DUP MLA, used his speech in the debate to criticise the attitude of some Sinn Fein politicians. He said they had shown “a barrage of disrespect” to Northern Ireland’s centenary. He also complained that the SDLP had told unionists to “suck it up” when the DUP expressed concerns about the Northern Ireland protocol.

And he also criticised Naomi Long, the Alliance leader, for saying people were lied to over Brexit. People should mind their language, he said.


Starmer urges PM to convene all-party talks on rioting in Northern Ireland

Sir Keir Starmer has restated Labour’s call (see 11.0am) for the PM to convene cross-party talks in Northern Ireland to address the rioting problem. On a visit to Bristol he said:

There are concerns in Northern Ireland about Brexit, there are concerns about the promises that the prime minister made which haven’t been kept.

They don’t justify the violence, let’s be very, very clear about that.

There is no justification for this violence, particularly the violence against the police service in Northern Ireland.

What the prime minister needs to do now is step up, show leadership, convene all-party talks and talk to the government of Ireland of course as well, and resolve this with pragmatic political solutions.

Sir Keir Starmer on a visit to construction works at the Boat Yard in Bristol.
Sir Keir Starmer on a visit to construction works at the Boat Yard in Bristol. Photograph: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images



Martina Anderson, a Sinn Fein MLA, says the assembly needs to show ‘a generosity of spirit” and dial down the rhetoric.

Twenty three years after the Good Friday agreement, they are in a privileged space where dialogue can be used to build relationships between all traditions in Northern Ireland, she says.

She says changes brought about by the British government, and by unionism, have led to people in the protestant/loyalist community feeling their identity has been undermined.



Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, is heading to Belfast for talks with political leaders, Adam Payne from PoliticsHome reports.

Adam Payne (@adampayne26)

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis is on his way to Belfast for talks with political leaders

April 8, 2021


The power-sharing Northern Ireland executive met this morning before the debate started in the assembly to discuss the rioting, and afterwards it issued a joint statement. Here’s an extract.

Destruction, violence and the threat of violence are completely unacceptable and unjustifiable, no matter what concerns may exist in communities.

Those who would seek to use and abuse our children and young people to carry out these attacks have no place in our society.

While our political positions are very different on many issues, we are all united in our support for law and order and we collectively state our support for policing and for the police officers who have been putting themselves in harm’s way to protect others.


Nichola Mallon, the SDLP infrastructure minister, says the response of some political leaders to the rioting on social media was disappointing.

People want to know what politicians are going to do to de-escalate the situation, she says.

She says working class communities have been condemned to a cycle of violence for generations.


Michelle O’Neill, the Sinn Fein deputy first minister, says there was a very dangerous escalation of the rioting last night, because it moved to interface gates at Lanark Way (separating the two communities).

She says it is alarming that children were involved. And she blames the loyalist paramilitaries.

She praises the Good Friday agreement. But the Loyalist Communities Council has now withdrawn its support for this, she says.

She says there is room for everyone at the table. But there is no room for armed gangs, she says


Arlene Foster, the DUP first minister, is speaking now.

She says when politics fails in Northern Ireland, the vacuum will be filled by people offering destruction and despair.

“So political problems require political solutions”, she says, not street violence.

She says “responsible leadership” will not cherry pick problems, or deny the existence of the most difficult challenges.

She says MLAs should redouble their efforts to solve problems peacefully.


NI's justice minister suggests Brexiters' 'deception' has contributed to rioting

Naomi Long said it was particularly depressing that some of those involved in the rioting were children, some as young as 12 or 13. She said the fact they were being encouraged by adults to get involved in violent confrontation was “nothing short of child abuse”.

She said there were many theories as to why the rioting was happening, and that there could be “an element of truth in each of them”.

Brexit had caused simmering tensions for months, she said. She said she had some sympathy for people who feel betrayed. They were promised “sunlit uplands”, but those promises were not realistic, she said.

And she said Brexit was supported by those in government who were “more interested in their own ascent” than in the damage their “deception” could cause in Northern Ireland.

This sounded like an obvious reference to Boris Johnson.


In the assembly Naomi Long is opening the debate. She is justice minister in the executive, and leader of the cross-party Alliance party.

She has tabled the motion MLAs are debating. It says:

That this assembly notes with concern the violence on our streets over recent days and condemns without equivocation those involved; sends best wishes to those police officers attacked or injured whilst protecting the community and extends its sympathy to those members of the public who have suffered distress, loss or damage as a result; reaffirms its full commitment to support for policing and for the rule of law; recognises that leadership comes with responsibility; recommits to upholding a culture of lawfulness in both actions and in words; and calls for an immediate and complete end to this violence.


And here are some more Northern Ireland developments this morning.

  • The Police Service of Northern Ireland said a total of 55 police officers have been injured across several nights of disorder in Northern Ireland.
  • PSNI assistant chief constable Jonathan Roberts urged political leaders to unite in opposition to the rioting. He said:

We have seen scenes last night of a new generation of young people who have been exposed to scenes that I’m sure we all thought were in generations gone by, and I would encourage anybody in a position of leadership - political representatives, community representatives, parents - take an interest in what young people are doing and to have a united message to prevent further scenes like we witnessed last night.

  • Mark Lindsay, the chair of the Northern Ireland Police Federation criticised the calls from unionists, including from the first minister Arlene Foster, for the chief constable to resign. Lindsay said:

I think the executive need to stand together and need to make very, very firm statements around where they stand in the support in law and order. They cannot differentiate between supporting the chief constable and supporting officers on the ground.

Policing needs leadership, it needs a chief constable, and really in the middle of a crisis this isn’t terribly helpful.

We all have to work with our chief constable, we do need a chief constable. I don’t think removing him at this stage would be terribly helpful.