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2021 Northern Ireland riots

A series of riots in Loyalist areas of Northern Ireland in March/April 2021.

Top 10 2021 Northern Ireland riots related articles

2021 Northern Ireland riots
Date30 March 2021 – present
MethodsRioting, arson, hijackings and graffiti
Parties to the civil conflict
Casualties and losses
41 PSNI officers injured[2]

A series of riots in loyalist areas of Northern Ireland began in Waterside, Derry, on 30 March 2021. After four nights of rioting in loyalist areas of Derry,[3][4] disturbances spread to south Belfast on 2 April. A loyalist protest developed into a riot involving iron bars, bricks, masonry and petrol bombs. Following this, civil unrest spread to Newtownabbey on 3 April, where cars were hijacked and burnt, and petrol bombs were also used against police.[5] Carrickfergus in southern County Antrim also saw serious civil unrest on the night of 4 April and morning of 5 April, where loyalists created roadblocks to keep police out of local estates and threw petrol bombs and other incendiary devices at police vehicles.[6] The BBC described it as the worst riot in Northern Ireland in years.[7]

2021 Northern Ireland riots Intro articles: 2


Graffiti in Belfast (February 2021)

The riots occurred within a background of tension within loyalism in Northern Ireland.[8] Loyalists and unionists argued that post-Brexit trading arrangements have created barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.[8] Loyalist groupings withdrew their support for the Good Friday Agreement until the sea border is removed and graffiti appeared across Northern Ireland regarding the sea border.[9][10] A worker at the new border posts in the predominantly unionist Larne was forced to relocate with his family after receiving a death threat from an unnamed loyalist paramilitary group. [11]

Tensions had also arisen earlier in the week after authorities decided not to prosecute 24 Sinn Féin politicians after they attended the funeral of IRA head of intelligence Bobby Storey, allegedly breaching COVID-19 restrictions.[8] The main unionist parties, including First Minister Arlene Foster, called for the resignation of Simon Byrne, the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), claiming he had lost the confidence of the community.[8][12] Foster had tweeted "Devastating outcome for public confidence in policing. There will be consequences".[12]

Another factor is that the PSNI seized illicit drugs from the South East Antrim UDA on several occasions, causing particular ill feeling towards the PSNI.[13]

2021 Northern Ireland riots Background articles: 11


Waterside, Derry

The riots began in the unionist Tullyalley estate.[3][4] Petrol bombs and masonry were the main weapons used by rioters there and in the predominantly unionist Rossdowny Road/Lincoln Court area.[3][4] A nursing home in Nelson Drive was attacked, which police said caused "untold fear and distress" to residents.[3][4] A digger was set alight as were pallets.[3][4] Disorder continued on 4 April when children as young as twelve were involved in attacking the PSNI with masonry, petrol bombs and fireworks with fire crews also being attacked.[14]

Twelve PSNI officers were wounded, receiving injuries to heads, legs or feet.[3][4]

On 5 April, a gang of around 20 youths were seen at the site of a burning car in Sperrin Park.[13]

Sandy Row, Belfast

Banner displayed in Sandy Row (March 2021)

Disturbances broke out in the Sandy Row area of south Belfast on 2 April.[8][12] Following a protest, a riot erupted and Ulster loyalists attacked the PSNI with bottles, bricks, petrol bombs and fireworks.[8] Eight people were arrested, including a 13-year-old boy.[8] The PSNI said the ages of those arrested ranged from 13 to 25.[12]


Rioting broke out in loyalist areas of Newtownabbey during the evening of 3 April.[15] The PSNI said 30 petrol bombs were thrown at police, and three vehicles were hijacked and set ablaze during rioting in the loyalist O'Neill Road and Doagh Road areas.[16] Minor disturbances resumed on 4 April although to a lesser extent than the previous night.[5]

Carrickfergus, County Antrim

On the night of 4 April, Ulster loyalists began to gather on the North Road area of Carrickfergus, setting fire to bins and laying them across the road. [17] When Police arrived, items such as bricks, bottles and incendiary devices were used in an attempt by Ulster loyalists to injure police and keep them out of Carrickfergus estates. [18]

On 5 April, a crowd of young people gathered in the North Road area of the town and lit a fire in the middle of the road.[13] Witnesses said petrol bombs were thrown sporadically at police.[13]

Unauthorised parades

On Monday 5 April, loyalist movement and violence became more widespread to more areas of Northern Ireland as several unauthorised loyalist parades took place in areas such as Portadown, Ballymena and Markethill.[13] The PSNI are investigating these parades, as they were a breach of coronavirus lockdown restrictions and had not been notified to the Parades Commission.[13]


On 7 April, a bus was hijacked by loyalist youths and set on fire at the junction of Lanark Way and Shankill Road in Belfast.[19][20] A Belfast Telegraph photographer was assaulted and his cameras damaged.[19][20] Rioters on each side of the peace line threw petrol bombs across it.[21]

On 8 April, rioters again gathered in West Belfast, throwing bricks, petrol bombs and projectiles at police on Springfield Road. In response, police used water cannons.[22]

2021 Northern Ireland riots Riots articles: 13



Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones, area commander for Derry city and Strabane area, condemned the riots and disorder as "totally unacceptable".[3][4] He added, "A care home should be a place of sanctuary for some of the most vulnerable people in our society" and "I would speak directly to those who were rioting last night, how would you feel if your grandmother or grandfather was in this care home and subjected to this violence?"[3][4] Jones also asked "parents, guardians, community or elected representatives" to use their influence "to ensure young people do not get caught up in criminality and that they are kept safe and away from harm."[3][4]

On 2 April 2021 Chief Superintendent Simon Walls, district commander for Belfast, said a "small local protest quickly developed into an attack on police".[8] The following day he said it was a "real tragedy" that children as young as 13 or 14 were among the arrested. and "sitting in a custody suite this morning" and facing investigation and possible conviction.[8] Walls urged "people with influence try to ask anyone intent on violence to please step back" and "resolve tensions or arguments" peaceably.[8]

Chief Superintendent Davy Beck said on the afternoon of 5 April that police were ready for more violence, but urged community leaders to put a prevent a "third night of trouble in the Cloughfern and Newtownabbey/Carrickfergus area."[13] Beck also said that he believed "a small group of disaffected criminal elements that are clearly involved in influencing young people" were responsible for the riots.[13]

Northern Ireland officials

Stormont Justice Minister and Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said that the words used by political leaders "have consequences" and that the rioting "is in no-one's best interests – not the officers dealing with it and not the mostly young people risking their futures by engaging in it."[12] Long said that leaders must "behave responsibly and dial down the inflammatory rhetoric over recent days."[12]

First Minister Arlene Foster also criticised the rioters, urging young people "not to get drawn into disorder" and said violence "will not make things better".[12] Foster also asked "parents to play their part and be proactive in protecting their young adults."[12]

Among Sinn Féin MLAs, Paul Maskey said that young people were "being used by sinister elements" and held the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) responsible for stirring up tensions;[12] Gerry Kelly (who is a member of the policing board in addition to an MLA) accused unionist leadership "in particular the DUP" of using rhetoric that incited violence.[23] and John O'Dowd condemned the unauthorised parade in Portadown, saying it was "led by masked men through the streets" and intended to intimidate the local community.[13]

Ulster Unionist Party MLA Doug Beattie said "everyone bears responsibility" for the violence.[23]

DUP councillor David Ramsey said the riot was "so depressing" to witness and "I have worked with young people on the Waterside for many years. I have never seen anger like this".[3]

Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom, and United States

Following the riots, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and U.S. President Joe Biden, condemned violence, expressed concern, and urged calm.[24][25]

2021 Northern Ireland riots Reaction articles: 17


  1. ^ a b "What is behind the violence in Northern Ireland?". BBC News. 8 April 2021. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  2. ^ "PSNI say 41 officers injured during NI rioting". BBC News. 6 April 2021. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Twelve officers injured in Londonderry disorder". BBC News. 3 April 2021. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Petrol bombs and masonry thrown at police in Derry". RTÉ News. 2 April 2021. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  5. ^ a b "Newtownabbey: Police attacked for second night in a row". BBC News. 4 April 2021. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  6. ^ "'Sinister elements' getting younger people to attack PSNI". BBC News. 5 April 2021. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  7. ^ "Belfast: Rioting 'was worst seen in Northern Ireland in years'". BBC News. 8 April 2021.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Blackall, Molly (3 April 2021). "Northern Ireland's first minister joins calls for calm after Belfast riots". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  9. ^ "Two men arrested in Larne suspected of painting anti-border graffiti". the Guardian. 7 February 2021. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  10. ^ "Loyalist group withdraws support for Good Friday Agreement". BBC News. 4 March 2021. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  11. ^ "Larne Port worker and family relocated after loyalist threat". belfasttelegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i McDermott, Stephen; Duffy, Rónán (3 April 2021). "Teenagers aged 13 and 14 among eight arrests during rioting in loyalist area of south Belfast". TheJournal.ie. Press Association. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Call for recall of Stormont after seven nights of violence in Northern Ireland". TheJournal.ie. Press Association. 6 April 2021. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  14. ^ "Northern Ireland police appeal for calm after more unrest". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  15. ^ "PSNI respond to more unrest in loyalist areas of Co Antrim after cars hijacked and burnt out". TheJournal.ie. Press Association. 4 April 2021. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  16. ^ "Man charged with throwing petrol bomb after unrest in Newtownabbey". the Guardian. 4 April 2021. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  17. ^ "Police attacked in further loyalist disturbances in Northern Ireland". belfasttelegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  18. ^ "Petrol bombs and bricks hurled at police in third night of violence in Northern Ireland". Sky News. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  19. ^ a b "Widespread condemnation after bus hijacked and set on fire in Belfast". Press Association.
  20. ^ a b Kearney, Vincent (7 April 2021). "Bus petrol-bombed in further Belfast violence". RTÉ News. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  21. ^ Reporters, Telegraph (7 April 2021). "Boris Johnson condemns Belfast violence after petrol bomb thrown onto bus" – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  22. ^ "Northern Ireland riots: Youths clash with police in second night of trouble in west Belfast". belfasttelegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  23. ^ a b "'Sinister elements' getting younger people to attack PSNI". BBC News. 5 April 2021. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  24. ^ O'Carroll, Lisa; Carroll, Rory; Syal, Rajeev (8 April 2021). "White House expresses concern over Northern Ireland violence". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  25. ^ Leahy, Pat; Suzanne, Lynch; Hutton, Brian (8 April 2021). "Taoiseach, Boris Johnson and Joe Biden urge calm following Northern Ireland riots". The Irish Times. Retrieved 8 April 2021.