By Q Radio News and Rebecca Black, PA
An act of solidarity has taken place at Belfast City Hall for a bus driver whose vehicle was hijacked and set alight amid scenes of disorder.
A number of drivers gathered in the grounds of City Hall at lunchtime today.
Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) assistant general secretary Owen Reidy said it was a demonstration on behalf of the entire trade union movement to support the driver, who has been left shaken by the incident.
“Theirs is an act of generosity towards their fellow bus driver who was shockingly attacked last evening and towards the brave police officers and journalists who were also assaulted while doing their job and serving the community,” he said.
“Workers across Northern Ireland will not accept being the subject of attacks when going about their duties.
“The Translink workers are standing up and proclaiming this loudly.
“This has to stop and it has to stop now.
“All public representatives from across the community and every person of good will and influence in interface areas have to make clear that all such protests end before we have another night of violence.
“Young people are being treated as cannon fodder.
“Someone is going to get killed.
“The best public service any decent person of influence can do right now is to prevent the spiral deepening.
“Politicians need to come together, work together and make politics work in the interest of the entire community.”
🎥 Shocking scenes of violence in Belfast tonight as a bus is petrol-bombed at the junction of Lanark Way and Shankill Road with a device fired at the driver: pic.twitter.com/RPDQHbX0eu— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) April 7, 2021
The Metro Bus was taken at around 7.20pm at Lanark Way in west Belfast on Wednesday.
Translink chief executive Chris Conway said all the passengers were off the bus before the attack and said his thoughts are with the driver who he described as “badly shaken but unhurt”.
Bus services were withdrawn in a number of areas of Belfast as a precaution.
Translink have said their "top priority is the safety of all passengers and employees."
It comes after the company held a positive meeting with its Trade Union representatives earlier today - to review bus services operating in Belfast and other regions across NI following the recent violence and hijacking of a bus in Belfast yesterday evening.
Bus drivers at a rally in Belfast earlier today. Pic: Alan Lewis, Photopress.
Chris Conway, Translink Group Chief Executive explained in a statement, “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”.
Buses and Gliders in Belfast earlier today. Pic: Alan Lewis, Photopress.