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Belfast councillors fear summer of violence due to political instability


Police dealt with rioting in the city in April.

Police dealt with rioting in the city in April.

Dale Pankhurst

Dale Pankhurst


Police dealt with rioting in the city in April.

Councillors in Belfast have raised concerns about the potential for a summer of violence in the city due to political instability.

Back in April, successive nights of rioting in the city and other parts of Northern Ireland saw dozens of police officers injured.

The rioting was fuelled by a number of issues, including tensions around the Northern Ireland Protocol, perceptions in the unionist community of two-tier policing, and the decision not to prosecute those who attended the funeral of IRA man Bobby Storey.

During a meeting of Belfast City Council’s (BCC) People and Communities Committee on Tuesday, Green Party councillor Brian Smyth called on the council to ensure funding is made available to support youth engagement.

His motion also urged the council to support the formation of a NI Youth Assembly for it to recommend ways to address issues affecting young people.

“As the main political body of this city, we have a moral and ethical duty to do everything we can to protect our citizens, particularly those young people at risk of being manipulated into street violence, as well as our duty of care to front line council staff carrying out daily essential services,” Mr Smyth said.

DUP councillor Dale Pankhurst said he was glad the motion goes beyond simply condemning children.

“I’ve walked that route before. I didn’t get involved in anything, but I have been there,” he said.

“I’ve been in those situations, back during the flag protests I was still at the Belfast Boys’ Model School, I witnessed a lot of my friends going through the criminal justice system instead of going to university.

“Plenty of them could have ended up where I am now, plenty of them could have been doctors, lawyers — they could have been anything they wanted, they were smart kids. It breaks my heart... I’m extremely nervous for this summer.”

Mr Pankhurst tabled an amendment referencing the tensions caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol, calling on the EU and British and Irish Governments to resolve the issue, although it was defeated by a vote.

The original motion was passed, without a vote.

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