Rathcoole Bus Hijacking

Part of Members' Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:00 pm on 8th November 2021.

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Photo of John Blair John Blair Alliance 12:00 pm, 8th November 2021

I am grateful for the chance to wish our colleague Mr Weir a full and speedy recovery and to address the issue of recurring violence in Northern Ireland.

I cannot condemn strongly enough the latest violence on the streets, including a bus hijacking and burning in Rathcoole, close to my constituency, on Sunday evening. I pass on my support to the driver and passengers who were on that bus. Understandably, they will be traumatised by that deeply disturbing act of violence. Such incidents bring fear to local communities and tarnish onlookers' image of Northern Ireland. They also seriously undermine the good work that is being done by good people at community level in Rathcoole and elsewhere.

Like other recent outbreaks of violence, the latest incident is reported to have been connected to dissatisfaction with the Northern Ireland protocol. It follows similar attacks only last week. Members will recall that there was also similar violence at Easter this year, the effects of which still affect the communities where those incidents occurred. There appears to be increasing violence since the expiry of politically imposed deadlines with regard to the Northern Ireland protocol and issues around it.

For the sake of all communities, it is now crucial that political leaders dial down the rhetoric and focus on solutions, rather than setting deadlines or issuing ultimatums. Often, when political speeches or actions raise tensions, those tensions spill over and affect people who are trying to get on with their lives in their local areas. There has never been a greater need for political leaders to work together for satisfactory outcomes, avoid hype and end the blatant destruction of public assets. Those senseless acts of destruction, which could lead to death or serious injury, should be called out on every occasion. They must cease. The hijacking and burning of a bus achieve nothing. What they do is terrorise and frighten people who are just trying to earn a living, get home to their families or go about their daily business. I urge anyone with any information on the recent attacks to contact the police, directly or through Crimestoppers, to assist the cessation of these actions.