Northern Irish loyalists demand changes to Brexit border protocol

Loyalist Communities Council calls for renegotiated border protocol with European Union member the Republic of Ireland and an end to street violence.

Video Transcript

- Disperse immediately, or water cannon will be used.

ANDREW CHAPPELLE: Another night of violence in Belfast with rioters hurling rocks and shooting fireworks at police. In turn, the police used water cannon on demonstrators for the first time in years. Pro-British Loyalist residents feel increasingly cut off from the UK as Brexit provisions are implemented with the Customs Border created between Northern Ireland and the British mainland, even though they are one country.

SEAN MURRAY: A lot of these kids feel failed by the educational system. They don't see any prospects in terms of employability.

ANDREW CHAPPELLE: Besides Brexit, there are other pressures on the community. Youth centers have been shut because of COVID restrictions. Northern Ireland's first minister says criminal gangs are whipping up young people to commit violence. People are still angry about this event last year, which turned into a political scandal. Deputy First Minister Michele O'Neill and more than 20 other Sinn Fein leaders attended a large funeral, allegedly breaking the government's own rules to tackle coronavirus.

Last week, the Public Prosecution Service said no one would be prosecuted for attending. To many Pro-British Loyalists, it appeared Sinn Fein and Republicans who want a United Ireland were above the rules. Some who lived through The Troubles are passing lessons and grievances to the next generation.

- I don't think young people really understand the details in terms of the Irish sea border and stuff. I think what they're being told, and what they're seeing reflected in the media, is that Sinn Fein are winning. The Republicans are winning, and that our identity is under attack. And when they hear those words, when they hear that stuff, and then they're told all right, and the way that you can help is by going out there and throwing bombs, sticks and stones at people. They're more than willing to do so.

ANDREW CHAPPELLE: The British, Irish and Northern Irish leaders have called for calm. The international community is growing worried about any potential unraveling of the Good Friday Agreement. But the recent clashes, a crisis for young people are about far more than Brexit. Andrew Chappelle, Al Jazeera.