THE LEADER of the Labour party has said that broken promises over Brexit made by Boris Johnson 'do not justify the violence' in Northern Ireland.

Keir Starmer was speaking during a visit to Bristol today when he was asked about the growing unrest in Belfast.

It comes as the UK Government's Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis flew over to the capital this afternoon for emergency talks, in an effort to calm the riots and tensions in the country.

Mr Johnson said on social media that he was "deeply concerned by the scenes of violence in Northern Ireland, especially attacks on PSNI who are protecting the public and businesses, attacks on a bus driver and the assault of a journalist."

He added: "The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality.”

Mr Starmer said that the Prime Minister had to step in to de-escalate the situation, which started on Good Friday.

The violence unfolded amid increasing political tensions over the trade border in the Irish Sea caused by Mr Johnson’s Brexit agreements with Brussels, as well as fallout from the police’s handling of funeral that took place during coronavirus restrictions.

The funeral of former IRA man Bobby Storey, which took place last June, saw mass gatherings on the streets however last week it emerged that prosecutors had decided not to charge anyone in attendance.

Arlene Foster, DUP leader and the country's First Minister, called for the resignation of the Police Service of Northern Ireland [PSNI] Chief Constable Simon Byrne, which in turn has been criticised.

Last night a bus was set on fire, a newspaper photographer was attacked and seven police officers are said to have been injured during the sixth consecutive night of violence.

Mr Starmer said: “This is about leadership and the Prime Minister can’t be absent. He needs to convene talks urgently to find pragmatic political solutions to reduce this violence.”

When asked if he thought the problems were related to Brexit, the leader of the opposition said: “There are concerns in Northern Ireland about Brexit, there are concerns about the promises that the Prime Minister made which haven’t been kept.

“They don’t justify the violence, let’s be very, very clear about that.

“What the Prime Minister needs to do now is step up, show leadership, convene all-party talks and talk to the government of Ireland of course as well, and resolve this with pragmatic political solutions.”

The main political parties in northern Ireland were due to hold emergency talks today, along with Northern Ireland Secretary Mr Lewis.

The DUP's Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, from Sinn Fein, are expected to meet with Mr Lewis, as well as Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken and Alliance party leader Naomi Long.

Ahead of the talks, Mr Lewis urged all communities to work together to end the violence, saying the determination to move on from the Troubles could not be “crushed by a small minority”.

In a statement, he said: “Those engaged in this destruction and disorder do not represent Northern Ireland.

“I have seen firsthand the true spirit of Northern Ireland – the creativity, the optimism and the determination to never return to the conflict and division of the past. We cannot allow that spirit to be crushed by a small minority intent on violence.”

He added that he was “aware of the ongoing concerns from some in the unionist and loyalist community”.