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Police blast crowds with water cannon as violence flares again in Belfast

Stones and fireworks were thrown at police by gangs of youths on the nationalist Springfield Road in west Belfast.

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Water cannons were used on crowds gathering on the Springfield Road in Belfast. Photo: PA Media.

Water cannons were used on crowds gathering on the Springfield Road in Belfast. Photo: PA Media.

Water cannons were used on crowds gathering on the Springfield Road in Belfast. Photo: PA Media.

Rioters have been blasted with a water cannon by police as unrest stirred on the streets of Belfast once more.

After shocking scenes provoked calls for calm this week, violence again flared up on the streets of west Belfast, amid rising tensions in the area.

Stones and fireworks were thrown at police by gangs of youths gathered on the nationalist Springfield Road, close to where Wednesday night’s riots took place.

The latest violence came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and US President Joe Biden called for a calming of tensions.

Those involved were warned by police to “disperse immediately or the water cannon will be used”.

However, those present continued to fire missiles at police and after several warnings, the water cannon was deployed.

Some of those present jeered before fleeing as the water jet came closer.

Justice Minister Naomi Long issued a fresh call for calm after what she called “depressing and reckless” scenes.

She tweeted: “More attacks on police, this time from nationalist youths. Utterly reckless and depressing to see more violence at interface areas tonight.

“My heart goes out to those living in the area who are living with this fear and disturbance. This needs to stop now before lives are lost.”

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Wednesday night’s violence saw clashes between both communities along the peace wall that separates the unionist Shankill Road from the nationalist Springfield Road.

But Thursday night’s unrest appeared to be confined to nationalists.

Groups of community activists were seen attempting to prevent access to the gate of the peace line where clashes took place the previous night.

A heavy police presence was in operation on Thursday night, with water cannon, police dogs and the riot squad in place in a bid to quell another night of unrest in the area.

PSNI officers were seen holding riot shields and being pelted with missiles before causing the youths to flee by charging at them with dogs.

Earlier, the UK Prime Minister and Irish premier made a joint call for calm after days of unrest in Northern Ireland.

Boris Johnson and Taoiseach Micheál Martin spoke over the phone on Thursday about the violent clashes in mainly loyalist areas over the last week.

In a statement, the Irish Government said the two leaders stressed that violence was unacceptable.

“The way forward is through dialogue and working with the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement,” the statement said.

“They agreed that the two governments would continue to stay in contact.”

The Biden administration in the US also appealed for calm in Northern Ireland and voiced its support for the Brexit protocol.

At a briefing on Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “We are concerned by the violence in Northern Ireland and we join the British, Irish and Northern Irish leaders in their calls for calm.

“We remain steadfast supporters of a secure and prosperous Northern Ireland in which all communities have a voice and enjoy the gains of the hard-won peace.

“We welcome the provisions in both the EU-UK trade cooperation agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol, which helped protect the gains of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.”


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