Drivers stage demonstration after second bus hijacked

Drivers Stage Demonstration After Second Bus Hijacked
Politicians have condemned the latest bus attack, amid growing tension over opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol. Photo: PA Images
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By Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Some bus drivers have staged a walkout in solidarity with colleagues who have been targeted in hijackings amid rising tensions over opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The drivers gathered in the grounds of Belfast City Hall on Monday, hours after four masked men, armed with a hammer and a bottle of petrol, boarded a bus near the loyalist Rathcoole estate in Newtownabbey.


The driver and passengers were ordered off, and the vehicle was set alight.

Last Monday, a bus was hijacked and burned in a loyalist area of Newtownards, Co Down, in an apparent protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Disorder also broke out at a community interface in west Belfast twice last week.



Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite union, said they had held discussions with management to increase support and security for drivers.

She said: “Last night’s attack is an attack on workers everywhere.


“The only outcome of this senseless act is that another bus driver has been left traumatised.”

Chairman of Unite Metro bus drivers’ branch, Michael Dornan, said he had spoken to the driver caught up in Sunday night’s incident.

He said: “He has been left traumatised as a result of what he experienced, and we are trying to provide him all the support possible.

“Translink drivers are deeply angered that we are always the political punchbag for issues we have no power over or hand in.


“All we do is provide a valuable public service for our communities, but we are the ones who are on the front line.

“All politicians need to act and end these attacks on drivers.”

Police have appealed for information over the attack in Newtownabbey.

Hijacked bus – Co Antrim
The burnt out double decker bus in Church Road near Rathcoole (David Young/PA)

Detective Inspector Lenaghan said: “It was reported at around 7.45pm that four masked men got onto the bus as it made a stop at Carnreagh Bend, and ordered its passengers to get off.

“The men, who were reported to have been carrying a hammer and a bottle of petrol, then forced the driver to make the journey to Church Road, and proceeded to smash windows and set the bus alight.

“The suspects were said to have been dressed in black, and believed to be aged in their 40s.

“One of the men was described as being around 5’ 7” in height, whilst two of the others were estimated as being 6 ft or taller.”

The officer added: “This was a distressing and frightening ordeal for everyone involved, and we are thankful that no one suffered any physical injuries.

“This reckless incident also continued to cause disruption for those who live and work in the area, and we would ask drivers to avoid it as we continue to carry out our investigations.”

The latest attack has drawn condemnation from political parties across Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Troubles
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the violence was ‘totally unacceptable’ (Brian Lawless/PA)

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “We want to be absolutely clear that this kind of violence is totally unacceptable, it serves no purpose whatsoever, and we want to see those responsible for violence on our streets, whether it’s in Rathcoole, in Newtownards, or on Lanark Way, brought before the courts because in the end this is criminal behaviour.

“It is unacceptable.

“It does nothing to advance any cause whatsoever, never mind opposition to the protocol.

“And we are very clear that politics is the only way we’re going to resolve these issues.

“It will not be through violence or the threat of violence.”

Taoiseach visit to Belfast
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he believes violence is being orchestrated in protest against the NI Protocol (Mark Marlow/PA)

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood suggested the attack was part of orchestrated violence in protest against the protocol.

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“That tap has been turned on, but it’s being controlled.

“It’s absolutely wrong,” he said of the recent violence.

“I frankly think that people like Lord Frost and senior members of the DUP need to think very carefully about the language that they’re using, because they’re creating more and more instability on the streets of Northern Ireland.”

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