DUBLIN, Ireland - Taoisdeach Micheal Martin says he is deeply concerned about Thursday night's attacks on a journalist and bus driver in Northern Ireland which have followed several days of rioting and protests.
"I condemn the violence and attacks on the police that we have witnessed over the last number of days in The North," Martin said Thursday night.
"The only way forward is to address issues of concern through peaceful and democratic means."
"This evening's attacks on a journalist and bus driver are deeply concerning and are in no one's interests," the taoiseach said.
"Now is the time for the two governments and leaders on all sides to work together to defuse tensions and restore calm."
"My government has listened to and will continue to listen to and engage with the views of all communities in Northern Ireland," Martin added. "But the way to address genuine issues of concern is through peaceful and democratic means."
Thursday night's attacks followed an intense night of what the PSNI has described as 'sustained disorder' in areas of West Belfast on Wednesday night.
"We witnessed intense disorder in a built-up area for a sustained period," Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said Thursday.
"During this time officers came under constant attack. At times there were upwards of 600 people present. Petrol bombs, bottles, masonry, and fireworks were thrown during scenes of violent disorder."
"A bus was hijacked and set on fire. The driver, a key worker in our community, was removed from his bus and violent crowds threw petrol bombs into it, setting it alight. Thankfully the driver escaped without injury. A moving bus on fire surrounded by a large crowd could have led to members of the local community being seriously injured," the assistant chief constable said.
"During the disorder six AEPs were discharged by officers. Eight officers were injured. Two men aged 18 and 28 have also been arrested on suspicion of riotous behaviour."
"A press photographer was also assaulted by two masked men. An investigation is underway into his assault and criminal damage to his equipment. During the disorder, two motorists had their vehicles hijacked and burnt out," Roberts added.
"Whilst many of those involved in the disorder last night were adults, it is clear there were many young people involved. Young people were being encouraged to commit criminal acts by adults, who stood by clapping and encouraging the violence. There is absolutely no justification for this. Young people need to quickly realise that by engaging in this type of behaviour they are not only risking their safety, they are also risking their futures."