Bus drivers deserve to be safe doing their jobs, Nichola Mallon said.
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has said bus drivers deserve to be safe following last night's violence in west Belfast which saw a Metro service high jacked and petrol bombed.
The Minister was speaking after a positive meeting between Translink and the Unions where it was agreed that for the coming days, Translink will closely monitor services and the situation on the ground before making a determination on the safety of running services.
This will be done in consultation with the PSNI.
The meeting came after Belfast bus drivers brought the city centre to a standstill on Thursday morning in protest at the violence.
Buses parked up just around City Hall and scores gathered in its grounds for the demonstration.
They heard calls for assurances to be given from political leaders for their safety or they would withdraw services from areas where there could be disorder, after 6pm until the next morning.
They heard how the bus driver at the centre of the attack on the Shankill Road was badly shaken and would need some time to recover.
ICTU Assistant General Secretary Owen Reidy said there was widespread support for public transport workers.
"Theirs is an act of generosity towards their fellow bus driver who was shockingly attacked last evening and a towards the brave police officers and journalists who were also assaulted while doing their job and serving the community," he said.
"Workers across Northern Ireland will not accept being the subject of attacks when going about their duties. The Translink workers are standing up and proclaiming this loudly."
He added: "This has to stop and it has to stop now. All public representatives from across the community and every person of goodwill and influence in interface areas have to make clear that all such protests end before we have another night of violence.
"Young people are being treated as cannon fodder. Someone is going to get killed. The best public service any decent person of influence can do right now is to prevent the spiral deepening. Politicians need to come together, work together and make politics work in the interest of the entire community.”
On the Shankill Road, a bus driver was forced out of his double-decker vehicle before it was then put into neutral and allowed to freewheel down the road as scores of people including young children watched on and among traffic.
It was then pelted with missiles and petrol bombs before it set alight. Adults could be seen directing young people during the violence.
Translink has confirmed the vehicle cost £250,000.
Minister Mallon said: “I can understand why bus drivers gathered at City Hall after the attack on one of our drivers last night and I stand in full support and solidarity with them.
"All bus drivers deserve to feel safe as they go about their job. These public servants, men and women, are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters.
"They transport our health workers to hospitals, all of us to and from work, children to school, they are a fundamental part of our society and have been working on the front line throughout this pandemic. They deserve to be safe and they deserve our respect and gratitude."
She added: “I appeal again to those responsible for these attacks to stop. There is no place for violence in our society. Attacking public services, destroying your own streets and terrifying your own neighbours will achieve nothing. Enough is enough. We need calm and we need to restore peace on our streets.”
NIC-ICTU chair Alison Millar, who is also the leader of NI’s largest public sector union NIPSA, added: “This morning, the debris from last evening is being swept up by public servants from all communities.
"Health workers are treating the wounds of injured police officers and a transport worker. Social workers, teachers and community support staff are dealing with the aftermath among young people caught up in the chaos.
"The bus workers in Translink, like many are essential workers and have stepped up to the mark during this pandemic. What matters now is that all of those workers get the support of all public representatives and that real leadership is displayed.”
Translink has been approached for comment.
The Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis is holding emergency talks with political leaders here this afternoon in a bid to defuse tensions following a week of violent attacks on police.