According to the BBC, the unrest largely erupted as a result of police in March choosing not to prosecute members of the left-leaning Sinn Fein party for violating coronavirus restrictions last year, as well as continued tensions over a new sea border between Northern Ireland and Ireland imposed as a result of Brexit.
Nearly a dozen people have been arrested and at least 90 police officers have been injured so far in the riots, though recent nights have been quieter, likely because of the April 9 death of Prince Philip. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.
Though the conflict in Northern Ireland dates back centuries, the Good Friday Agreement of April 10, 1998— 23 years ago this month— largely brokered peace on the island.
The faith leaders in their letter noted the importance of negotiating agreements that serve the common good.
“We are conscious too that Churches are only a small part of the wider civic leadership in our society, and that all civic leaders have a responsibility to support our elected representatives as they seek to negotiate difficult compromises and find new accommodations for the common good,” they wrote.
“At the same time, we have a responsibility to hold them to account, and the persistent levels of socio-economic inequality in the areas worst impacted by violence, over two decades after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, demand more sustained attention and meaningful intervention by political leaders.”
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Various political leaders in Northern Ireland have condemned the current violence but have disagreed about its causes and solutions.
The Northern Ireland Protocol, which came into force in January, requires certain goods such as meat and eggs coming from Britain to be inspected at Northern Irish ports, the implementation of which has caused some disruption to food supplies. Unionist groups in Northern Ireland oppose the inspections because they do not want Northern Ireland to be treated differently than the rest of the UK.
The UK is now negotiating with the EU over the dispute.