Civil Unrest

08
Apr
7:24 UTC

UK Alert: Unionists, republicans, police forces continue violent clashes in Belfast on April 7-8; avoid non-essential travel in vicinity of protests

Please be advised

  • According to April 8 reports, petrol bombs were thrown at police and property and a bus was set on fire during the evening and overnight hours of April 7-8 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Pro-UK unionists and pro-Irish unification republicans clashed with police forces and each other.
  • The clashes occurred on what is known as the “peace line” unofficially dividing unionist and republican communities in west Belfast. Additionally, the violence marked the sixth consecutive day of such unrest throughout Northern Ireland, including in Londonderry (Derry) and other outlying areas of Belfast.
  • The violence has escalated since the Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP) of the Brexit agreement between the EU and UK was initiated, with unionist residents of Northern Ireland disaffected by perceived trade barriers imposed between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Additionally, the recent decision by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) not to prosecute high-profile republican individuals who attended former Irish Republican Army (IRA) leader Bobby Storey’s funeral despite COVID-19 restrictions, further increased tensions with unionist citizens.
  • The clashes also come after the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) temporarily withdrew from the Good Friday Agreement on March 4. The LCC is an umbrella organization for the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), Ulster Defence Association (UDA), and Red Hand Commando unionist paramilitary groups, which support Northern Ireland remaining in the UK.
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster, and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill have all condemned the violence. O’Neill was one of the individuals who attended Storey’s funeral. 

Assessments & Forecast

  1. Tensions are liable to continue between unionists, republicans, and police forces throughout Northern Ireland in the near-term as a political resolution to the differences is unlikely in the short-term. Further, violence is likely to be present during demonstrations between unionists and republicans with incendiary projectiles being thrown and the police using crowd dispersal methods, such as tear gas or water cannons. The attendance of members of radical and paramilitary groups on both sides is likely and further increases the risk of violence.
  2. Furthermore, despite all major political leaders close to the conflict calling for a de-escalation in the violence, it is unlikely the leaders of the more extreme groups on both sides of the conflict will listen to their calls, given a sense of disconnection between them and more mainstream parties. Clashes between are most likely to manifest in areas of Northern Ireland where unionist and republican communities reside in close proximity, although given both sides’ anti-police sentiments, unrest may arise in all locations. 
  3. FORECAST: The recent violence is likely to continue and is liable to further escalate in the near-term, most prominently in Belfast. Paramilitary groups from both sides of the divide can be expected to hold protests in acts of “civil disobedience” in the short-term to attempt to spread police forces’ resources. Further, civil unrest, bombings, and shootings may increase throughout Northern Ireland going forward, primarily targeting governmental, security forces, and opposing paramilitary targets, while carrying a risk for the general public, given the methods used. Low-sophistication IEDs are a known modus operandi of both groups, especially republican paramilitaries, and are often placed beneath vehicles of targeted individuals or outside official sites, such as police stations and local government buildings. 

Recommendations

  1. Those operating or residing in Northern Ireland over the coming days are advised to avoid nonessential travel in the vicinity of all protests and public gatherings.
  2. Maintain heightened vigilance for paramilitary activity. 
  3. Alert authorities immediately upon witnessing suspicious items or behavior. 
COUNTRY RISK LEVEL Low
AFFECTED AREA Northern Ireland, UK
INCIDENT RISK LEVEL High
STRENGTH OF SOURCE Credible

Please be advised

  • According to April 8 reports, petrol bombs were thrown at police and property and a bus was set on fire during the evening and overnight hours of April 7-8 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Pro-UK unionists and pro-Irish unification republicans clashed with police forces and each other.
  • The clashes occurred on what is known as the “peace line” unofficially dividing unionist and republican communities in west Belfast. Additionally, the violence marked the sixth consecutive day of such unrest throughout Northern Ireland, including in Londonderry (Derry) and other outlying areas of Belfast.
  • The violence has escalated since the Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP) of the Brexit agreement between the EU and UK was initiated, with unionist residents of Northern Ireland disaffected by perceived trade barriers imposed between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Additionally, the recent decision by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) not to prosecute high-profile republican individuals who attended former Irish Republican Army (IRA) leader Bobby Storey’s funeral despite COVID-19 restrictions, further increased tensions with unionist citizens.
  • The clashes also come after the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) temporarily withdrew from the Good Friday Agreement on March 4. The LCC is an umbrella organization for the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), Ulster Defence Association (UDA), and Red Hand Commando unionist paramilitary groups, which support Northern Ireland remaining in the UK.
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster, and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill have all condemned the violence. O’Neill was one of the individuals who attended Storey’s funeral. 

Assessments & Forecast

  1. Tensions are liable to continue between unionists, republicans, and police forces throughout Northern Ireland in the near-term as a political resolution to the differences is unlikely in the short-term. Further, violence is likely to be present during demonstrations between unionists and republicans with incendiary projectiles being thrown and the police using crowd dispersal methods, such as tear gas or water cannons. The attendance of members of radical and paramilitary groups on both sides is likely and further increases the risk of violence.
  2. Furthermore, despite all major political leaders close to the conflict calling for a de-escalation in the violence, it is unlikely the leaders of the more extreme groups on both sides of the conflict will listen to their calls, given a sense of disconnection between them and more mainstream parties. Clashes between are most likely to manifest in areas of Northern Ireland where unionist and republican communities reside in close proximity, although given both sides’ anti-police sentiments, unrest may arise in all locations. 
  3. FORECAST: The recent violence is likely to continue and is liable to further escalate in the near-term, most prominently in Belfast. Paramilitary groups from both sides of the divide can be expected to hold protests in acts of “civil disobedience” in the short-term to attempt to spread police forces’ resources. Further, civil unrest, bombings, and shootings may increase throughout Northern Ireland going forward, primarily targeting governmental, security forces, and opposing paramilitary targets, while carrying a risk for the general public, given the methods used. Low-sophistication IEDs are a known modus operandi of both groups, especially republican paramilitaries, and are often placed beneath vehicles of targeted individuals or outside official sites, such as police stations and local government buildings. 

Recommendations

  1. Those operating or residing in Northern Ireland over the coming days are advised to avoid nonessential travel in the vicinity of all protests and public gatherings.
  2. Maintain heightened vigilance for paramilitary activity. 
  3. Alert authorities immediately upon witnessing suspicious items or behavior. 
COUNTRY RISK LEVEL Low
AFFECTED AREA Northern Ireland, UK
INCIDENT RISK LEVEL High
STRENGTH OF SOURCE Credible