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Irish leader Micheál Martin warns of return to conflict in Northern Ireland

Loyalist gangs in Tiger's Bay tried to attack Irish Republicans in the neighboring New Lodge community

As rioting and violence continues to escalate across Northern Ireland, the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) has made a rare intervention by warning of a potential return to all-out conflict.

Speaking on the 23rd anniversary of the so-called Good Friday Agreement (which ended the conflict in Northern Ireland), Micheál Martin urged political leaders in the British-controlled territory to “step forward and play our part and ensure that this [conflict] cannot happen”.

“We owe it to the agreement generation … not to spiral back to that dark place of sectarian murders and political discord”, the Taoiseach added.

The Irish leader’s warning comes on the heels of the 12th night of disorder across Northern Ireland, during which time 88 Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers have been injured.

In the latest violence on Friday evening (February 09), there were fierce clashes in the loyalist Tiger’s Bay enclave in north Belfast as well as rioting in Coleraine, County Derry.

Loyalist gangs based in Tiger’s Bay tried to attack the neighboring New Lodge community, which is mostly populated by Irish Republicans. The PSNI had to scramble to create a buffer zone between the warring groups.

During the ensuing clashes – when both warring parties attacked the PSNI – fourteen police officers were injured. 

Meanwhile, in Coleraine loyalists engaged in three hours of “senseless” rioting during which time they built a road block and threw petrol bombs at the PSNI.

Sustained rioting by loyalists is now threatening to bring Irish Republicans and the broader Irish Unity movement into the fray.

There are growing fears that in the event of inter-communal clashes, the Good Friday Agreement could quickly unravel.


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