Belfast Bus drivers gathered near Belfast City Hall at lunch-time to protest violent disturbances on the Shankill yesterday which left one driver escaping with his life from a masked loyalist gang armed with petrol bombs and bottles.
The driver managed to get off the bus before it was burnt out in an attack branded "attempted murder" by First Minister Arlene Foster.
At the city centre demonstration, drivers announced their decision not to drive buses after 6pm into areas where street violence has occurred and where their safety was not guaranteed .
Following a meeting between Translink and it’s Trade Union representatives, Chris Conway, Translink Group Chief Executive explained, “Public safety will always be our number one priority and we are working closely with the PSNI.
“We understand the level of concern expressed by our staff and their families. Our drivers are delivering essential bus services for all communities and we will ensure this is done safely.
“We will be monitoring this situation and will continue to work with our Trade Unions as we review our plans to clearly keep the safety of our staff and passengers a top priority.
“Our staff have been resilient throughout the pandemic as they worked to provide essential public transport to keep society connected. This attack on our services is simply unacceptable.
“We would like to thank the public for the many messages of concern and support, particularly for our driver, who is recovering and getting the support he needs. These are very welcome as we work through these difficult circumstances.
“This is a dynamic situation, and we would encourage people to visit www.translink.co.uk or follow us on Twitter to get the latest service information before they travel.” Chris concluded.
Davy Thompson and Peter Maklin on behalf of the joint trade unions Unite and GMB said: “Following the incident yesterday evening which involved an attack on a bus, we would call on all those with influence inside communities to use that influence to calm down the current situation. As trade unions our first priority is the safety and welfare of the drivers and passengers. We will not stand by and watch bus drivers run the gauntlet of violence.
“To that end, we have asked, and the company have agreed to review the schedules over the coming days and whilst this will undoubtedly inconvenience the general public, we believe there to be no other option at this time”.
NIPSA Deputy General Secretary Pádraig Mulholland stated at the protest:
“No worker should be attacked for doing their job!”
Transport Minister Nichola Mallon called for an end to the targeting of buses.
More footage of the bus attacked by loyalist rioters tonight in Lanark Way, west Belfast as serious disorder continues. pic.twitter.com/w4jZGU39nT— Patricia Devlin (@trishdevlin) April 7, 2021
“Those attacking their own communities and their own public services are achieving nothing and if this doesn't stop now it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed."
Clonard Sinn Féin councillor Claire Canavan said plans, announced through social media, for further street protests at interfaces should be scrapped. “No worker should have to face what this bus driver going about his day's work had to face," she said. "Those responsible for this need to stop immediately and the planned protests must be called off.”