Police and politicians in Northern Ireland called for calm Monday after a third night of violence in which young protesters set fires and threw bricks and petrol bombs at officers.
The outbursts come amid growing tensions over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland and worsening relations between the parties in the Belfast government shared by Protestants and Catholics.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said officers were attacked in Londonderry on Sunday night and there were also disturbances in two pro-British Unionist areas near Belfast. Police said most of those involved were teenagers.
Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones condemned the “senseless and reckless criminal behavior that (does) nothing but cause harm to the community.”
The rioting followed riots Friday and Saturday in unionist areas in and around Belfast and Londonderry, also known as Derry, where cars were set on fire and projectiles and petrol bombs were thrown at police officers. Police reported that 27 officers were injured and eight people were arrested, the youngest a 13-year-old boy.
The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union on December 31 has shaken the delicate political balance in Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom where some people identify as British and others as Irish.
The new UK-EU trade agreement has imposed customs and border controls on some goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. The agreement was designed to avoid controls between Northern Ireland and Ireland, an EU member, because an open Irish border has underpinned the peace process built on the 1998 Good Friday agreement.
The compromise ended decades of violence involving Irish republicans, British loyalists and U.K. armed forces in which more than 3,000 people died. But Unionists say the new controls amount to a new border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DPU), which jointly governs Northern Ireland with the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party, has called for the Brexit deal to be scrapped.
Unionists are also angry about the Police’s decision not to prosecute Sinn Fein politicians who attended the funeral of a former Irish Republican Army (IRA) commander in June. Bobby Storey’s funeral attracted a large crowd, despite coronavirus rules banning mass gatherings.
The main unionist parties have demanded the resignation of Northern Ireland’s chief constable over the controversy, claiming he has lost the confidence of his community.
Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland, stated that the “political atmosphere” was being used as an excuse for violence, orchestrated by banned paramilitary groups.