If both sides are to be believed then no one is to blame for the ongoing nightmare in North Belfast. Still there is something quite chilling in the latest statement from Loyalists with regard to recent violence. It is forthwrite, simple and completely unapologetic:
The senior loyalist said that Mr Lawlor had been killed in retaliation for a gun attack on Sunday evening in which a Protestant teenager was seriously injured. He said: “We’re one bullet, one fatality away from the war starting again. They (the UDA) were determined on Sunday night to put a body on the streets so they persevered until that happened. They wanted a confirmed dead and they got it”.
Alan Murray believes ‘The situation is not hopelessly out of control, but politically and on the streets it is bleak as Mr Blair prepares to issue one more yellow card.”
At root, North Belfast has become a patchwork of mutually exclusive areas; something which has considerably worsened since the Belfast Agreement:
Some 62 percent of residents in areas that are seperated by so-called peace walls, usually consisting of brick or barbed-wire, consider relations to have deteriorated. 68 percent of people aged 18 to 25 have never had a meaningful conversation with anyone of the other religious denomination, and 62 percent have been victims of physical or verbal sectarian abuse since the IRA ceasefire.
Brendan O’Neill gets close to the bottom of why this problem has sharpened rather than defused in recent years:
The Irish peace process has division and instability inherent within it. With its aim of containing the conflict rather than resolving it, the peace process draws the political parties into a dialogue without resolving any big political questions or fundamental differences. And as political questions move down the agenda, so cultural and purely sectarian conflicts have risen to the fore.
With the national question off the agenda, and the conflict robbed of its political content, all sides in Northern Ireland are turning to culture and identity. The peace process is not about resolving the conflict but about ‘celebrating cultural diversity’ – not about overcoming the divisions between Catholics and Protestants but about recognising those ‘cultural differences’ and respecting them.