Brandon Lewis to hold emergency talks in Belfast over NI violence

Brandon Lewis outside Downing Street

Brandon Lewis outside Downing Street - Credit: PA / Stefan Rousseau

Brandon Lewis is flying to Belfast to hold emergency talks with the main political parties as well as faith and community leaders in an attempt to quell a spate of violence.

PA reports that the Northern Ireland secretary will meet with first minister Arlene Foster, from the DUP, and deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill, from Sinn Fein, on Thursday afternoon.

He was also expected to meet Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken and Alliance party leader Naomi Long following several nights of disorder that have seen dozens of police officers injured.

It follows Keir Starmer urging Boris Johnson to “step up” and convene all-party talks.

The PM has said he is “deeply concerned” by the scenes and called for calm in the region, adding: “The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality.”

Lewis is encouraging all communities to work together to end the violence, saying the determination to move on from the Troubles cannot be “crushed by a small minority”.

In a statement, he said: “All communities in Northern Ireland must work together to resolve the tensions that we are currently facing.

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“The people of Northern Ireland deserve better than a continuation of the violence and disorder that we have witnessed in recent days. I know, from my ongoing contact with party leaders, that this is a view that is shared by all. The only way to resolve differences is through dialogue and in that regard we must all lead by example.

“Those engaged in this destruction and disorder do not represent Northern Ireland.

“I have seen first hand the true spirit of Northern Ireland – the creativity, the optimism and the determination to never return to the conflict and division of the past. We cannot allow that spirit to be crushed by a small minority intent on violence.”

He added that he is “aware of the ongoing concerns from some in the unionist and loyalist community”.

“However, I remain clear that the right way to express concerns or frustrations is through dialogue, engagement, and the democratic process, not through violence or disorder,” he added.

“Following engagement earlier today, I welcome the statement from the Executive and join them in appealing for calm.

“I will do all I can to continue to facilitate further constructive discussions on the way forward over the coming days. I remain in close contact with the prime minister to keep him updated.”

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