“encouraged by a small number of people opposed to the peace process…”

Twenty-six people were arrested during last night’s rioting in nationalist areas of north and south Belfast and Londonderry.  There were also reports of public disorder in Armagh, and the Dunclug estate in Ballymena.  RTÉ lists Strabane, Newry, Ballymena and Armagh city, as well as Belfast and Londonderry.

In Londonderry, we are told

Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Martina Anderson said the violence was “orchestrated” and described it as “an orgy of destruction”.

“Let’s be clear the vandalism and wanton destruction in the Bogside last night was just that,” she said.

“They are vandals pure and simple, they are an embarrassment to the nationalist people, there is no political motivation for these activities.

“While the orchestration of the trouble in the Bogside is encouraged by a small number of people opposed to the peace process and anti-community elements coming together no political progress can be made by burning a number of vehicles and holding the community they come from hostage”, she added.

And in Armagh, from the same UTV report

Sinn Féin MLA for Newry and Armagh, Cathal Boylan said: “Contrary to the will of the local community and for no justifiable reason, a group of 20 or so youths, directed by a small number of adults, burnt a number of tyres before stealing and burning a car.”

“The message to those who participate in this rioting from the communities here is that they are not wanted, they have no support and they certainly have no mandate for their actions”, he added.

The police’s official line is reported as “those involved in the violence were mindless thugs and there was no evidence that it had been orchestrated.”  Although this UTV report suggests he may only have been refering to Ardoyne where

About 200 nationalist youths – mainly young men, some of whom masked and wearing surgical gloves – threw petrol bombs, fireworks, bricks and other missiles during the disorder in Brompton and Estoril Park.

“I cannot say that any particular organisation had a part in this, this was thuggery with no apparent control or direction and no one apparently able to bring any influence to it,” Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said.

On the violence on Monday night, in Belfast, before Robert McClenaghan, from the Falls Residents Association, said that the violence was organised by nationalist youths, Sinn Féin’s Jennifer McCann was being quoted in an earlier BBC report

“What I witnessed last night was a disorganised mob attacking police lines.”

And on last night’s violence in Ardoyne, in contrast to the party statements from Londonderry and Armagh, [former] Northern Ireland Junior Minister, Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly, also fails to mention the ‘d’ word.

“The principle reason why tensions are raised here each summer is entirely down to the continuing failure of the Orange Order to sit down and enter dialogue with their neighbours. Instead they arrogantly insist on marching through communities where they are not wanted.

“The residents of Ardoyne held a dignified and peaceful protest against the unnecessary and unwanted Orange parade. There were others who decided to apply for an additional parade to enter the Crumlin Road at the same time as the Orange parade was scheduled to pass. This provided a focus for mainly young people from outside Ardoyne to travel to this area yesterday. A small number decided to engage in rioting.”

In his statement, Gerry Kelly goes on to complain about “the premature use of water cannon” and “the use of plastic bullets”.

Others take a different view, as the Guardian reports

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds has blamed “militant republicans” opposed to the peace process for organising a sustained riot in the Ardoyne area that lasted into the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The Democratic Unionist MP said the violence, which lasted for more than six hours, had nothing to do with an Orange Order march past the area. Dodds pointed out there had also been a peaceful protest against the parade.

And in a Guardian article yesterday, Henry McDonald identified some important factors behind the violence

Sinn Féin, for example, denounced the trouble that erupted on Monday night in west Belfast, most of it directed at the embattled Police Service of Northern Ireland, as nothing more than social vandalism.

The party’s assembly member for the area, Jennifer McCann, claimed she had identified some of the rioters as serial antisocial hooligans. Less than a decade ago, her party was deploying a similar type of young people to physically oppose loyalist marches through or close by republican districts, albeit before Sinn Féin entered a powersharing arrangement with the Democratic Unionist party and went into power with unionism.

Of course, much of the violence and the mayhem over the past 24 hours, particularly on the republican side of Northern Ireland’s sectarian fault line, has been seemingly mindless destruction and nihilist in spirit.

However, this is to ignore two important factors as to why hundreds have come on to the streets to confront a heavily armed and protected PSNI.

The first of these is ideology: many of those young republicans taking part in street violence across the city and beyond have little or no investment in the current political settlement at Stormont. Unemployed and with little prospect of long-term, fulfilling jobs, this social group is alienated from the political process. They see all politicians and especially those from “their side” as part of the establishment, aloof and indifferent to them.

Add to this historic mistrust of the police – much of it engendered by the very people who now condemn them while encouraging their peers to join the PSNI – and you have a lethal cocktail of resentment towards any force of authority in society.

Sprinkle on top the influence of ideologically-fired republican dissident organisations from the Real IRA to the Continuity IRA and you have an explosive mix ready to detonate at any time but in particular during the marching season.

He also identifies a “second major impetus”, “the [recent] behaviour of loyalist paramilitaries – the Ulster Volunteer Force and Ulster Defence Association.”  But read the whole thing.

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