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Northern Ireland Protocol labelled 'breach of trust’ and factor in violence on streets of Belfast


Riots: a youth throws a fire bomb over a peace wall

Riots: a youth throws a fire bomb over a peace wall

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Riots: a youth throws a fire bomb over a peace wall

The “breach of trust” around the Northern Ireland Protocol is one of the causes of recent violence in the region, Secretary of State Brandon Lewis was told in the Commons.

Mr Lewis was speaking in the House of Commons in Westminster on Tuesday, as he gave MPs an update on recent rioting and disorder that has seen 88 police officers injured and 18 arrests made.

During his remarks, the Secretary of State condemned the violence as “totally unacceptable” and said those responsible “do not represent” the people of Northern Ireland.

Mr Lewis also described it as “tragic and deeply concerning” that young people were widely involved in the scenes of violence and added that there remains “elements of fragility” in Northern Ireland’s “post-conflict society”.

Describing the reasons behind the recent trouble as “complex and multifaceted”, Mr Lewis suggested that restrictions brought about as a result of Covid-19 were one factor, with tensions over the implications of post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland another.

“I do recognise how frustrating it has been especially for young people in Northern Ireland facing the uncertainty around lifting lockdown restrictions without having the clear roadmap in Northern Ireland,” he told the Commons.


NI Secretary Brandon Lewis speaking in the Commons on Tuesday

NI Secretary Brandon Lewis speaking in the Commons on Tuesday

NI Secretary Brandon Lewis speaking in the Commons on Tuesday

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“There is also a perception the rules and restrictions have not been enforced equally in Northern Ireland.

“I recognise that there are concerns about the implications of the Northern Ireland Protocol, concerns which overlap with wider questions of national identity and political allegiance.”

Responding to the Secretary of State, Labour’s Louise Haigh urged the MP to convene talks between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Stormont parties.

The shadow Secretary of State also blamed the UK’s Brexit deal with the EU as the seed of “growing political instability” and suggested promises had been broken with the unionist community.

“There is also a very deep sense of hurt and anger amongst the unionist and loyalist communities which has been building for months and which must not be ignored,” she said.

“The Prime Minister made promises to the people of Northern Ireland that there would be no border with Great Britain knowing full well his Brexit deal would introduce barriers across the Irish sea.

“He made those promises because he knew economic separation would be unacceptable to the unionist community. The growing political instability we are seeing has its roots in the loss of trust this has caused.

“The Prime Minister owes it to the people of Northern Ireland to restore the trust he has squandered. He must step up and urgently convene talks with the political parties in Northern Ireland.”

The DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson added that there was an issue “of trust” around the Northern Ireland Protocol and added that the “peace process has to be built on trust”.

The MP for Lagan Valley also said that in his view, the PPS’s decision not to charge anyone in relation to the Bobby Storey funeral led to an “undermining” of people’s confidence in policing.

“There was a breach of trust in relation to the Northern Ireland Protocol and creating barriers to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, that we were told would not happen and have happened and they undermine the sense of identity and the place of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom,” he said.

The SDLP leader Colum Eastwood called on Mr Lewis to call a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference - the body established to facilitate discussions between the British and Irish governments.

“I am calling for a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference to address the deep rooted issues that have been given expression through street violence," said Mr Eastwood.

"Policing may be devolved to our Assembly but peace isn’t. All parties to the agreement need to apply themselves to this work and to ensuring that we work together in the substantial common interests of all traditions that share our island.”

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