This day was to commemorate the 23e anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which in 1998 put an end to the “Troubles”, those three bloody decades during which Republicans (mainly Catholics, supporters of reunification with the Republic of Ireland) had opposed ‘on the one hand and Protestant Unionists (otherwise known as “loyalists”) ardently defending membership in the United Kingdom on the other. April 9, 2021 will not however be placed under the sign of peace: for ten days, riots have shaken Northern Ireland, in a climate of tensions exacerbated by Brexit.
On Saturday April 10, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, Micheal Martin, warned against a “Spiral” of violence. “We have a duty, for the generation of the Accord and for future generations, not to enter a spiral leading back to the dark era of sectarian killings and political discord”, he said in a statement. Over 3,500 people lost their lives during the “Troubles”. “Those of us who have political responsibilities are responsible for playing our role and ensuring that [cette spirale] does not happen ”, he added.
Tensions exacerbated by Brexit
For several days, Ulster has been shaken by violence that it had not known for many years, especially in loyalist areas with a Protestant majority, where the consequences of leaving the European Union have fueled a feeling of betrayal and bitterness.
The peace agreement signed in 1998 blurred the existing border between this constituent nation of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, but Brexit weakened the delicate balance by making it necessary to introduce customs controls between the United Kingdom. United and the European Union. At the end of bitter negotiations, London and Brussels had managed to agree on a solution: the “Northern Irish protocol”, which by moving controls in the ports of Ulster will have made it possible to avoid returning to a border. physical on the island of Ireland.
88 police officers injured
A total of 88 police officers were injured in these episodes of violence, 14 of them last night, the Northern Ireland Police Service (PSNI) said on Saturday. “The week has been difficult and worrying”, said Simon Coveney, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs. “This anniversary reminds us of the responsibilities we all have, and what politics, determination and dialogue can accomplish”, he added.
On Friday, several unionists called for an end to the demonstrations, for “Respect for the queen and for the royal family”, after the announcement of the death, at the age of 99, of Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II. Clashes nevertheless took place the same evening in Belfast. Several Molotov cocktails and other projectiles were thrown at police officers, the PSNI said. A car was also “Set on fire and directed at the police”. In the town of Coleraine (north), the police had to confront a group of around forty people.
In recent days, violence has also spread to the Republican areas. Thursday evening, rioters threw Molotov cocktails and cobblestones in the direction of the police who were blocking their advance towards the Unionist zones. For the first time in years, the police used water cannons.
Wednesday evening, it was the doors of the “walls of peace” (which separate Unionist and Republican districts) which had been set alight. Unionists and local government republicans unanimously condemned this violence, and calls for calm have multiplied, issued by London, Dublin and Washington.