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NI unrest: Leaders call for 'calm'

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Political leaders call for calm after six nights of violence left 55 police officers injured.

Video Transcript

DAVID BLEVINS: The so-called Peace Line resembled a war zone. Cars were hijacked, crashed into the gates that keep communities apart, and torched.

JONATHAN ROBERTS: The scenes that we saw were absolutely disgraceful, in terms of the serious criminal acts that were being carried out and the violent disorder that was taking place. And it needs to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

DAVID BLEVINS: Earlier, teenagers had petrol-bombed a bus--

[MOLOTOV COCKTAIL SHATTERS]

--risking the lives of the driver and passengers.

With the Brexit border in the Irish sea inflaming tension in Loyalist areas, the Northern Ireland secretary returned to Belfast.

BRANDON LEWIS MP: I'll be the first to acknowledge, over the first few months of this year, there were real issues around how the protocol has landed for people, both as consumers and those in the Unionist, Loyalist community, that sense of identity. The way to deal with these things is through a diplomatic, democratic political process. There is no legitimization or excuse for taking to violence to deal with any of these issues.

DAVID BLEVINS: Under pressure to help restore calm, Stormont was recalled from its Easter recess, the first minister, who's ill, participating virtually.

ARLENE FOSTER: The harm to Northern Ireland's image, in this, our centenary year, has taken us backwards. And no brick, no bottle, no petrol bomb thrown, has achieved or can ever achieve anything but destruction, harm, and fear.

MICHELLE O'NEILL: As political leaders we must stand united in appealing to all concerned to refrain from further threats or use of violence. It's not right. It's dangerous. It's unacceptable. And it is a miracle that as we stand here today, that no one has been killed.

[SIRENS WAILING]

DAVID BLEVINS: This trouble started when Sinn Fein escaped prosecution for alleged breaches of COVID regulations at an IRA funeral. Some of those engaged in the rioting are in their early teens

BILLY HUTCHINSON: I mean, the one thing I won't do is sit back and allow people to use young people as cannon fodder.

DAVID BLEVINS: Billy Hutchinson is a former loyalist paramilitary. He rejects claims the main groups are orchestrating this.

BILLY HUTCHINSON: You know as well as I do, in this society, we've always looked for bogeymen. I think what we need to be looking for is a people who need peace. And those people, including foreign bogeys, are still signed up to the peace process.

DAVID BLEVINS: There's a battle going on for the heart and mind of loyalism, and there's always sinister elements are seeking to exploit that for criminal purposes. That makes it difficult to be specific about what's causing the outbreak of violence at flash points like this one. It's even more difficult to contain it when rioters are too young to have experienced life before peace here.

David Blevins, Sky News in Belfast.