In recent months, tensions within the Unionist community have grown over post-Brexit trade deals which have caused disruption and added red tape for transporting food from Britain across the Irish Sea. .
However, anger grew last week after the Northern Ireland Police Service (PSNI) controversially decided not to prosecute a number of senior Sinn Fein officials who attended Republican funerals as the Covid restrictions were in effect.
Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein’s vice president and deputy prime minister, was among those present at the funeral of Bobby Storey, who was the head of IRA intelligence in the 1990s.
The move led Arlene Foster, the prime minister, to call for the resignation of Simon Byrne, the PSNI’s chief of police, with other Unionist parties supporting the resignation request. He declined to do so, as an independent review of the decision not to prosecute is currently underway.
Speaking after visiting a number of communities affected by the clashes on Tuesday, Ms Foster said she condemned the violence and urged people to “stop immediately”. She also warned that confidence in the PSNI was gone, adding: “The police chief must resign and must resign quickly.”
High-level DUP sources told The Telegraph on Tuesday that they believed Mr Lewis needed to pressure Mr Bryne to step down. “His position is totally untenable, and if the government were to do anything … a little pressure from Brandon Lewis to tell the chief of police that we need a fresh start here,” an insider said. .
However, Whitehall sources have indicated that Mr Lewis will not do so, a move likely to escalate tensions between the DUP and the UK government.
Asked whether Boris Johnson was concerned about the violence, his spokesperson told reporters: “The Prime Minister would echo the comments you saw from Brandon Lewis over the weekend. wounded officers and he fully supports the PSNI’s calls for calm.
“The Secretary for Northern Ireland said the unrest we saw was totally unacceptable and violence is never the answer.”
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