Armed and masked men hijacked and acceptable occurrence to a double-decker autobus astatine dawn connected Monday, fuelling fears of a caller question of Brexit-related unit successful Northern Ireland.
The charred and smouldering remains of the conveyance remained successful the Newtownards country connected Monday afternoon.
BBC Northern Ireland reported claims from loyalists that they had carried retired the onslaught to people the passing of the 1 November deadline acceptable by the DUP for walking retired of the Stormont enforcement unless large changes to the Northern Ireland protocol had been secured.
Stormont’s infrastructure minister, Nichola Mallon, said 2 masked men “muttered thing astir the protocol” arsenic they held the operator astatine gunpoint.
“Two masked men entered the bus. They held the driver, a male, astatine gunpoint, they said thing astir the protocol, and they past proceeded to spray the wrong of the autobus with flammable liquid. They forced the autobus operator disconnected the autobus and past they acceptable it alight,” Mallon told BBC Radio Ulster’s The Nolan Show.
The operator managed to get disconnected the conveyance unharmed but was severely shaken by the incident, the constabulary said. No passengers were connected the autobus astatine the time.
The attack, which has echoes of the unit that spilled connected to the streets successful Belfast and Derry astatine Easter, was roundly condemned by each parties including the DUP, which said “thuggery and coercion volition bash thing to region the NI protocol”.
The party’s leader, Jeffrey Donaldson, said governmental engagement had already secured advancement successful narration to changes to the protocol and the talks betwixt the EU and the UK indispensable beryllium allowed instrumentality their course.
He said erstwhile helium had acceptable retired his timeline for progress, “the EU was saying that caller negotiations were impossible”.
But successful an denotation that Donaldson has parked his menace to locomotion retired of Stormont, helium said that since past caller proposals had been enactment guardant by the EU and “serious negotiations person reopened with the UK government”.
“No tenable idiosyncratic could contradict that this represents important and affirmative progress. That advancement was secured done governmental enactment and not violence.”
“Those engaging successful thuggery lone undermine these efforts and cement the protocol much firmly successful place,” helium said.
The Ulster Unionist leader, Doug Beattie, described the onslaught arsenic “utterly disgraceful, depressing and stupid” portion the shadiness Northern Ireland secretary, Louise Haigh, said it was “utterly reprehensible”.