Northern Ireland bus torched in protest against Brexit ‘sea border’

Masked men kidnapped and set fire to a bus in Northern Ireland early Monday in an attack linked to opposition by British trade unionists to the post-Brexit trade protocol.

Union leaders condemned the attack as counterproductive. Head of the Democratic Unionist Party Jeffrey Donaldson said such threats and destruction would only “solidify the protocol”.

police called two masked and armed men stopped the bus and asked the driver to pour fuel over the interior of the otherwise unoccupied vehicle and set on fire. Such roadside abductions, particularly of buses, were common in the three decades of the conflict over Northern Ireland known as the riot, but are now a rarity.

The attack in Newtownards, a mostly unionized town 10 miles east of Belfast, came weeks after Donaldson warned his party would withdraw from the intercommunity government of Northern Ireland – which sparked its collapse and subsequent new elections – unless Britain was given fundamental concessions by the EU for enforcing the trade protocol in Northern Irish ports.

Monday has been widely viewed as Donaldson’s deadline for such action. but Donaldson suggested that his party’s threat to quit this month is unlikely because London’s own threats to trigger Article 16 of the Protocol have produced “new proposals” from Brussels.

“Serious negotiations with the British government have resumed. No sane person could deny that this represents significant and positive progress, ”said Donaldson. “This progress was ensured through political action and not through violence.”

Police said that at least one of the hijackers was carrying a handgun, although there was no way to tell if it was a real weapon.

The hijackers reportedly told the bus driver that they were protesting the protocol, but no paramilitary group officially claimed responsibility for the attack.

Newtownards has been a focal point for several public protests against the protocol this year. It is also a power base for the Ulster Defense Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force. Both are banned “loyalist” paramilitary groups, internally divided over whether to incite violence as part of the broader anti-protocol protests by trade unionists.

Loyalists clashed with the police for ten days in April when many rioters said they were protesting the protocol and the police and power-sharing with Sinn Féin, the main Irish nationalist party.

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