Two children have been arrested following disorder in Belfast after a rally against the Brexit protocol. Police came under attack with missiles and fireworks close to a peace line on Wednesday evening.
The disorder came on Lanark Way in the loyalist Shankill Road area; there was also disorder on the nationalist Springfield Road side of the peace wall. Two males, aged 12 and 15 years, were arrested on suspicion of riotous behaviour and released on bail as police inquiries continued.
Police said officers were deployed in both areas from around 5pm. A PSNI spokesman said a small protest on Lanark Way obstructed the road; disorder broke out involving both sides of the community and continued for several hours with items burnt on the roads and missiles were thrown at police and their vehicles. “Calm was restored to the area by around 10.30pm,” he said.
Ch Insp Darren Fox described the scenes as “totally unacceptable behaviour … The disgraceful scenes of disorder seen this evening put members of the public and the responding police officers in real danger and must be condemned by all,” he said.
“I would like to thank local community representatives and youth workers for their influence and assistance in preventing further disorder.
The Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan condemned the organisers. “This so-called anti-protocol protest was deliberately organised at this interface with the sole intention of heightening tensions and causing trouble.
“I am calling on political unionism to show some leadership and call for an immediate end to all protests at interface areas before someone is seriously injured and they should tone down the provocative and dishonest rhetoric.”
Serious disorder erupted in the Lanark Way in April, which was partly attributed to loyalist anger at a trade border in the Irish Sea under the protocol’s post-Brexit arrangements. The attack in the predominantly unionist area happened on the day set by the DUP earlier in the autumn to pull down the institutions at Stormont if major changes to the protocol had not been secured. It was condemned by unionist leaders.
The DUP has not yet withdrawn ministers from the executive, insisting progress is being made in efforts to dismantle the Irish Sea border. Opposition to the arrangements that have created trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK was a factor behind rioting that flared in several loyalist areas across the region in April. Earlier this week a bus was burnt out in Newtownards in an attack politicians linked to loyalist opposition to the protocol.