Unity found in blaming police

After the rioting in Belfast on Saturday night a common cause was forged between Sinn Féin’s Deborah Devenny, “The PSNI have once again demonstrated their unwillingness to deal with loyalist thugs intent upon intimidating the people of this area.”, and the UUP’s Michael Copeland, “Apparent police unwillingness to heed my warnings and pre-empt this situation raises serious questions as to how they are handling this very real problem.” – Police criticised after riot – UTV report – of course that criticism didn’t do anything to stop more rioting in Belfast last night when, as RTE reported, “Police brought the situation under control shortly after midnight.”

  • Macswiney

    First things first Pete. I live in Short Strand and from Tuesday until Friday night last week there were various attacks on Clandeboye Gardens, all of which met with little or no response. The change on Saturday occurred because around 30-40 Orange bandsmen who had been parading decided to visit ‘Cluan Place’ (presumably they all have relatives living in the tiny cul-de-sac…). Attacks began on Clandeboye Gardens and the situation quickly spiralled out of control. The police response was slow and unconvincing to say the least. You seem to be implying that because both sides criticised the police they may have somwhow got it right. Nothing could be further from the truth (from what I witnessed myself). Personally the blame for starting the confrontation lies with loyalists, but i fully accept that both sides were heavily involved in rioting as the night wore on. As for The PSNI, why is it not possible for them to be the subject of criticism (from whatever side) when it is merited. They must be accountable like everyone else.

  • Dr Ian

    [You’ve already posted your blog address on another thread, any further posts of this kind will be treated as spamming – ed Mod]

  • fair_deal

    1. This is unacceptable. People must be allowed to live in their homes free from attack.
    2. This was the third night in a row that there was trouble at this interface.
    3. “Police brought the situation under control shortly after midnight.”
    I wish police action had contributed to ending this violence. They sat in their landrovers until the nationalist section of the rioters decided to switch their attentions to Twaddell. The smashed windows of the homes of four protestants on the Ardoyne Road occurred after the police arrived (eight landrovers full of officers). These homes had only recently been re-occupied again as it was felt safe to do so. The PSNI tactic of observing and collecting evidence for later action can lead to a lack of protection being offered at the time.

  • fair_deal

    Above post refers to Glenbryn/Ardoyne

  • Macswiney

    Fair Deal,

    Different area, similar issues but equally important none the less. However, the difference in East Belfast was that the trouble occurred initially because of the appearance of a drunken band who had been parading earlier that day. Is there going to be any investigation or sanction imposed on them by those who allowed them to participate in the parade in question? What are the responsibilities of march organisers and should the PSNI be actively investigating their actions which created a massive breach of the peace?

  • fair_deal


    I feel limited on what I can comment on here about the Cluan Place/Clandeboye stuff. If I put all the statements together it seems that there has been an ongoing pattern of low-level attacks with both communities as the victim. As my experience of working at interfaces has taught me if a low-level pattern occurs the cycle predicts it is only a matter of time before some group or event leads to an escalation.

    I have some scepticism about the band stuff it sounds like a re-tread of the excuse offered around the Twelfth for an attack on Cluan Place. The closeness of the trouble and the end of the match I think may have a significance. Also as there is an anti-parades agenda in the Short Strand so a band is a blame-hound with a number of attractions. I don’t think the residents of Cluan Place would be inviting troublemakers into their midst to start trouble it is not to their advantage.

    As for the police, the grape-vine is saying that in advance they didn’t want to know (old firm game, parade and good weather looks like an obvious time for some pro-activity on their part to me) and then when it kicked off they didn’t have enough resources to deal with it.

    As to your list of questions they are possible better addressed in the first instance, to the District Policing Partnership.

    PS I won’t be able to reply until tomorrow in case you have a response to this – girlfriend gets awful tetchy if I keep sneaking off to the computer on her night off. I don’t know why 😉

  • crat


    Talk about spinning. I’m surprised you decided to use that very brief RTE report.

    The BBC explains what the PSNI did, sat in their vans and had it sorted out by community representatives.

    “Officers remained in their vehicles as he and senior officers spoke to community representatives in an attempt to calm the situation, he said.
    Police action had to be proportionate to the situation and officers getting out of the Land Rovers could potentially escalate the problem, said the officer.”

    Now that’s easy overtime. And another example of crap policing from the PSNI or as recent examples indicate non-policing by the PSNI.

  • peteb

    No crat.. no misquoting.. no taking quotes out of context.. no spinning.. the brief RTE report is the only RTE report.. and the BBC report you cite was released 3 hours after this post was made – check the times – so I couldn’t have included it instead of the BBC report I did use.. It doesn’t actually contradict the RTE report and it’s worth pointing out, in regard to that, that both the BBC and UTV had no hesitation in using the line about community representatives intervening in the riots on Saturday night.

  • crat

    Not you, paranoid Pete. RTE. But probably the spin applied by the PSNI press office before another senior officer gave the game away.

    The PSNI didn’t sort anything out. Like they have been doing openly for several weeks. The initial story was spun then unspun when a senior officer gave the game away while trying to tug at the heart strings over rioting 6 year olds he ignored.

  • slug

    Is there an argument for using the watercannon at these times, fair deal?

  • Gonzo

    What do people expect?

    First, the police didn’t start the riot.

    Second, they can’t do anything to stop the riot, because it’s bound to infringe some spide’s human right to throw a bomb at the police.

    Third, they probably have learned that their intervention can make things worse.

    Fourth, do you think they care if the people trying to kill them hurt each other, when both sides seem to enjoy doing it so much?

  • slug

    Interesting points Gonzo, if slightly tongue-in-cheek. I do find it tempting to just let the two sides at each others throats. Those who riot impose a cost on society should themselves pay a price. If that price is injury to themselves I am not going to weep. The problem is innocent people do get caught up in it – e.g. a granny living terrified in one of the houses.

  • crat

    Grannies? The PSNI sat in jeeps and waited for community representatives to ensure the safety of 6yr old children during a riot (according to their own boast).

    They may claim to be policing sensitively, it just exhibits how they are completely unable/unwilling to police at all.

  • slug

    You are right crat.

  • slug

    I think the problem is that the police want to be popular but that is not their job.

    The police should be feared, but at present they are not.

  • crat

    Or if you assume at least some PSNI members may be decent human beings that would actually try to intervene when 6yr olds are in a riot situation, you might think the PSNI press office and senior officers made the 6yr old stuff up? Either that or they are really shit people (nevermind cops).

    Alex Attwood is bound to endorse and excuse them. The despicable little man.

  • Gonzo


    Ball, not man. Even if I might agree. Which I do, as it happens, but it’s late and I’m in a good mood.

    If I was being blunt, what is the point in policing riots. Like everyone else, the cops know they are largely stage-managed. Like any other recreational sport, injuries and death and occasionally expected, no? Like joyriding, is rioting not just another addictive ‘art’ for some people?

    Ever seen one? It’s like they’re rehearsed.

  • aquifer

    The cost of tolerating riots, in terms of lost investment, must be formidable.

  • Blackadder

    “Is there an argument for using the watercannon at these times, fair deal?”

    I think there is a case for using grenades on the scum who are rioting in East and North Belfast.

  • Macswiney

    Fair Deal,

    My brother is part of a cross-community based liaison group which tries to defuse these situations. Following the trouble, both sides looked at the causes and one of his counterparts on the Loyalist side admitted that the influx of bandsmen into Cluan Place had not helped the situation. So on that point, at least there is a semblance of agreement on both sides. Thankfully both groups manged to defuse further tensions last night when crowds assembled. I would certainly take issue with your comments about an anti-parades agenda in The Short Strand. What evidence is this based on? There has never been remotely the same conflict re parades in and around that area as there has been elsewhere. Routes of parades are generally agreed and the only issues that have arisen have been around occasional bad behaviour by some hangers on with the Orange marches. Sinn Fein in that area confine protests to organising small groups with placards and even the PSNI have said that these protests are peaceful and well organised. (as vindicated by the lack of trouble overall at marches in that general area).

  • slug

    I can understand the police leaving it to community reps to sort out. The plus point about last nights light-touch policing was that during the intercommunal rioting no police man was injured, nor was any rioter reported to be hurt.

  • fair_deal


    I notice a slight shift in emphasis between the two posts. The first post seemed to imply that bandsmen had initiated the trouble the second seems more to imply that simply their presence kicked it off.

    “an anti-parades agenda in The Short Strand”

    You provide the evidence yourself. The protests are anti-parades. Short Strand representatives have called for parades to be banned or re-routed. How about seeking judicial reviews to get permission for parades overturned? Objecteing to the Parades Commission? Peaceful protests, legal challenges etc are perfectly acceptable and the way we have to manage our disagreements but it is hardly a pro-parade stance. Fortunately, as you point out they have been largely peaceful something I wish Ardoyne would learn from. Although there have been a number of shameful incidents down through the years e.g. shootings, sectarian blockade.

  • DCB

    Isn’t rioting a largely, for the participants, cost free recreational activity. They might get a little soaked but they’re not going to get any real grief over it.

    Contrast with the Bradford/Oldham riots of a few years ago, where the rioters were handed out 3/4 year prison sentences.

    Spides need to know that riots lead to prison, not small fines and community sentences.

    Loved reading the Daily Ireland about the trouble, it seems that just as Celtic fans blamed the referee for the match, they were blaming the police for the post-match riot. Apparently Protestants get booked less often by the PSNI.

  • Macswiney

    Fair Deal,

    That is pretty condescending stuff mate. How about “objecting to The Parades Commission”? It paints a picture of neantherdals with no idea of due legal processes. Of course, as you should be aware, representations have been made to The Parades Commisssion on many occasions. The main issues (some of which have, to be fair, have been recognised by The Commission) concern the behaviour of marchers and in one significant instance, Orangemen themselves, when they were caught by UTV cameramen gesticulating and hurling sectarian abuse at residents. People are entitled to peaceful legal protest both through legal and other channels when they are subjected to this unashamed triumphalism.

  • fair_deal


    Sorry Macswiney my use of the question mark has led to a misinterpretation and I can see why you viewed it as condescending.

    I am aware of the legal challenges and representations to the Parades Commission (I’d done a websearch to check each of the things I said in the previous post).

    The question mark was meant to frame the things Short Strand representatives have done as a question not to claim they hadn’t done those things. ie Is objecting to the parades commission not evidence of an anti-parades agenda? Is taking legal challenges not proof of anti-parades agenda?

  • Jo

    Would agree on the accountability of the police (see my own linked post here) but cant help but contrast with Lurgan a couple of weeks ago.

    Had they stood by then – criticism.

    As they didnt – criticism.

    Thankless? well, no, they’re just a plaything for propagandists.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Can anyone explain why the OO etc insist on having so many parades? Why can’t they confine the ‘marching season’ to the 12th/13th July and have done with it?
    If they wanted to march at other times, there is a huge stretch of tarmac at Nutts Corner which is only used one day a week, and they could make as much noise as they want since nobody lives there.
    Then there would be much less excuse for rioting, the PSNI could get on with real policing issues like standing at the side of the road pointing hairdriers at motorists and we’d all be able to drive through towns without being stopped for 20 minutes while yet another parade goes past.

  • fair_deal

    Gerry lvs Castro

    “Can anyone explain why the OO etc insist on having so many parades?”

    The tradition of parading has a variety of origins from the practical i.e. walking was the only way to meet up, influences of religion i.e. bear public witness, desire for community i.e. to do some form of activity together, the early connection between some lodges and yeomanry units (These units would hold public marches in their area often as recuritment drives – this is infact why the first St Patricks day parade was held in New York by a British teomanry unit) but after a couple of centuries it is now simply an ingrained cultural practice so it is what they do. The following contributes to the number of the parades.

    1. There are six loyal orders. The Orange Order, the Royal Arch Purple Chapter, the Royal Black Institution, the Apprentice Boys of Derry, the Independent Orange Order and the Knights of Malta (effectively the IOO’s version of the Black). So the mulitplicity of groups increases the number of marches.
    2. Some of these organisations have multiple tiers e.g. lodge/perceptory/club, district, counties and grand. So each of these levels organise parades. So the multiplicity of layers increases the number of marches. This is the partial strength of the loyal orders in that they combine a local and collective identity.
    3. The blending of local and collective identity contributes to ‘feeder’ parades. Before going to a major or combined event you parade your local area. For example, my apprentice boys club will parade in my home town (both individually and with the other clubs), parade round Londonderry and parade round town again. (In fact we start our parade a mile from where we meet up with the other clubs – this was a compromise as historically we used to parade from our hall which is 4 miles out of town to meet up.) This means a one big event becomes dozens of parades.
    4. The rules of the organisation require events to be held. For example each Orange lodge is supposed to hold its own church service. There are also perscribed dates which are supposed to be marked e.g. Somme commemoration, Reformation Sunday and believe it or not Guy Fawkes nights (although this rarely is). Others have developed as local tradition ie the Belfast mini-twelfths. This means there are a number of parades beyond the big events.
    5. A high proportion of parades are organised by bands independent of the Loyal Orders of which there are hundreds many of whom organise parades in their local area or nearby town/village. An increasing number of these take the form of competitions and are often used as means of fundraising for bands.
    6. Some parades are used as chairty fundraisers as they usually draw a crowd. When I was growing up in North Antrim/Londonderry a number of the parades were held to raise money for Cancer reserach. The OO organises parades to raise funds for its charities e.g. Orange Widows fund.

  • merrygoroundoflove

    7. All parades lead to a sustained, perennial heightening of inter community tensions and, whether intentionally or otherwise, pick at the wound of our tribal hatreds.

    8. The Orange Order are regarded by many as being an organisation very much comparable with the Ku Klux Klan.

    9. Parades are deeply offensive to many protestants living in Northern Ireland as well, of course, as those Roman Catholics they arguably set out to offend.

    10. The Orange Order, Marching/Flute Bands and loyalist paramilitaries are inextricably linked.

    11. The narrow minded, anti-catholic nature of the Orange Order and their refusal to accept, despite the context of more than thirty years of bloody conflict in this country, that actually speaking to residents groups, never mind attempting to rethink their ideology might allow this country to move forward. Words like flexibility and adaptability are simply not part of the Orange Order’s vocabulary.

    12. Parades together with the blinkered actions of the Orange Order and other affiliated groups play directly into the hands of Republican propogandists who are more than happy to see this country thrown into a state of chaos on an annual basis.

    13. They are a MASSIVE part of the problem here and very much responsible for us being ‘locked’ into conflict. Their self obsessed, outdated, triumphalist arrogance appauls me.

    14. I am a protestant.

  • fair_deal

    7. If we deny or hide we have any differences over identity values etc everything will be all ok.
    8. Since partition the Irish News reported on a lynching and cross-burning outside an Orange Halls every month across Northern Ireland.
    9. The deep offence of Protestants is shown by participating in their tens of thousands and physically attending in their hundreds of thousands. Their disgust is reinforced by the high ratings of Twelfth television programmes. No OO member has any Catholic friends as they are treated as pariahs by every Catholic in the country.
    10. This is why loyalist paramilitary publications have consistently attacked the OO down the years for doing nothing and the OO banned paramilitary flags being displayed on their parades.
    11. Ignore the fact that no direct talks with residents groups have led to a resolution, or that they broke their word e.g. Ardoyne in June/July 2005 and that maybe tolerance and acceptance are the answers rather than expecting one community to beg of another the right to exist and express itself.
    12. Republicans want OO parades stopped so they can claim a sectarian victory. So let’s give up that’ll really confuse them.
    13. I’ll ignore how the issue developed in recent years, the sectarian motivation behind it (ie reinforce sectarian boundaries, prevent something as basic as a road being shared between two communities). I’ll ignore the divisions that predated the establishment of the OO. I’d rather just think the OO is the source of all evil and when it disappears peace love and harmony will break out and both communities will skip merrily hand in hand to a new era of peace and prosperity. None of the issues around parading have anything to do with nationalist/republican inability to accept with others on this island holding identities different or distinct from the one they wish to impose.
    14. I say I am part of the community the OO comes from as if that somehow makes my criticisms more valid than someone from a different community.

    The OO is not perfect. The OO does not have universal support among protestants but demonisation, over-statement and exaggeration offer no answers.

  • fair_deal

    Gerry lvs castro

    Correction to point one. The Association of Loyal Orangewomen and the Junior Orange Association are technically separate bodies so it is probably accurate to describe it as eight not six.

  • Jo

    There was a ban on all parades during the sumemr/autumn of 1970.

    Try it again, on a voluntary basis, for a year maybe?

    The money saved could build a school or two?

  • fair_deal


    1. The particular ban was rather conveniently introduced after the 12th July celebrations.

  • ssr

    on the same nights this riot took place (saturday), a pipe bomb was thrown into St. Matthew’s Court at the other end of the Short strand, exploding at the back of the pensioners bungalows on strand walk. This happened at around 12.15. The police did not arrive at the scene until around 9.30 on sunday morning. Its incidents like this that result in lack of faith in the psni

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Thanks for the detailed response Fair Deal.
    It’s all a lot more complicated than I thought (as is everything in NI).

  • fair_deal

    Gerry Lvs castro

    You’re welsom. Civil question deserves a civil answer.

  • slug


    1. Are there any parades on the ‘loyalist’ or ‘unionist’ side that you think are unhelpful?

    2. Do you know if there has been a problem of drunkenness at any parades and have any attempts been made to control this problem?

    (I remember in 2004 there was some attempts in the Ballymena area to limit alcohol consumption at parades but have heard little about this since).

  • fair_deal


    1. All depends what you mean by unhelpful

    2. There are problems with drink at parades.
    The problems with drinking are more so with the bigger parades especially at weekends (with some of the spectators etc would be out getting drunk in a pub instead they come to the parade and do it) What Loyal orders can do itself is limited as powers lead on enforcement lie with the police and there is inconsistent appraoch by the PSNI.
    Some examples i know of from personal experience:
    a) Parade Marshals give reports after parades. This inludes if any member was seen drunk or seen drinking alcohol while on parade ditto with the bands. Lodges are then fined and it is up the lodge what action they take against the offending member.
    b) The twelfth a few years ago in Glengormley the organising district asked the police to use their public order powers to close all bars and off licences. The same idea has been discussed regarding Belfast but the PSNI didn’t buy into it.
    c) At the ABOD parade the police have warning signs that they may confiscate alcohol and have seen them do so on a number of occassions.
    The last two parades past Ardoyne Parades and Cultural Forum marshals took the drink off anyone member of the public wanting to walk home after the parade past Ardoyne.
    d) Banbridge District put together a plan for improving marshalling at their parades, drinking and public urination etc and submitted it to the local Community safety partnership for funding but were refused (The local CSP was instructed by the NIO not to fund it and the PSNI said the expenditure wasn’t needed it as the problems with band parades not loyal order parades). When the OO in Belfast muted the same idea with the CSP but because of the NIO advice were told not to bother.
    e) A number of organising districts now put on cultural programmes in the field to promote a family atmosphere and thus less drinking.

  • slug

    Fair Deal

    For your info here is the alcohol clampdown story I was thinking of re Ballymena link

    It seemed to be successful but I was unsure if the initiative has been kept up. Nothing in the local Ballymena press this year (which has been rather more depressing).

    Thanks for your other replies.

    On “unhelpful” I apologise for the vague term, which I was hoping you might put some flesh on. I can see the positives in the OO and RBP parades I have seen but I have heard that there are other types of ‘loyalist’ parade that take place that are perhaps less positive. I suppose I am trying to get you to differentiate a little – are there any loyalist parades that you disapprove of or think are unattractive?

  • slug

    e.g. what do you think of things like the ‘Ballykeel Loyal Sons of Ulster’ parade? What sort of groups are these – are they part of the OO?

  • Gonzo

    ssr said:

    on the same nights this riot took place (saturday), a pipe bomb was thrown into St. Matthew’s Court at the other end of the Short strand, exploding at the back of the pensioners bungalows on strand walk. This happened at around 12.15. The police did not arrive at the scene until around 9.30 on sunday morning. Its incidents like this that result in lack of faith in the psni

    But isn’t that because the PSNI can’t go into the Short Strand until they get the say-so from The Lads? You can’t seriously expect a cop car to just drive into the SS unannounced and get away unscathed?

    …or can you?


    There was a big announcement by the PSNI recently about funding for innovative ways of reducing anti-social behaviour. If they used their imagination, perhaps community groups in loyalist areas could put the money to good use for reducing trouble during tense periods.

  • fair_deal


    1. On bands and the OO, there used to be a tradition that flute bands were connected to an Orange Lodge but this has dropped significantly in the last thirty years and the vast majority of the bands are now independent. In the late eighties the OO had what was called a bands committee because of a deterioration in band behaviour and enforced contracts. It caused absolutely huge arguments within the OO and between the OO and bands and was eventually abolished but it did produce a marked improvement in band behaviour on OO parades at least. It essentially ended with a gentleman’s agreement that the bands would behave better on OO parades if the OO dropped the bands committee.
    2. There have also been initiatives by the bands themselves to raise their own standards in particular the Ulster Bands Association.
    3. It isn’t so much a case of a particular parade I would disapprove of rather particular behaviour at any type of parade i.e. hurling abuse (sectarian or otherwise), public
    drunkeness, fights (sectarian or otherwise (usually drink-fuelled)) etc
    4. In the public discussion about parades etc there is one thing that is overlooked and that is the nature of the organisations. The loyal orders, bands etc are run almost entirely on a voluntary basis and at their own expense (We can’t go to the Sports Council for a massive subsidy to build new facilities). When people start going the Loyal orders should do this and that they seem to think that there is some unending tap of human resources and money these groups have. It also explains why the above list of initiatives is patchy.
    5. Also positive intiatives being thrown back in people’s faces don’t help spread good practice. For example the initiative in Kilkeel around the eleventh night bonfire that has been cold-shouldered by Newry and Mourne Council (One SF councillor actually said “This is part of Protestant culture we want to eradicate”) and in Maghera (or is it Magherafelt) were there were objections to the local band parade the band had repeated initiatives around public drinking, behaviour of spectators and even went so far as to clean the streets themseleves afterwards and yet they still got re-routed.
    6. Another initiative I forgot to mention was done by the ABOD. At their Easter parade in Enniskillen a few years ago they enforced a no drink ban with marshals with individual clubs enforcing it on the buses they hired and marshalls checked the buses as they arrived.


    “There was a big announcement by the PSNI recently about funding for innovative ways of reducing anti-social behaviour”

    Do you have any more info on that? I missed that announcement. Appreciate the suggestion the youth club I volunteer in should be willing to chase it up.

    I must also make the general gripe about this persistent use of the word ‘innovative’. There are plenty of tried and tested ways to reduce anti-social behaviour that can’t get support.

    “If they used their imagination, perhaps community groups in loyalist areas could put the money to good use for reducing trouble during tense periods.”

    Rather condescending there Gonzo.
    1. I and 7 other volunteers have been running summer schemes and diversionary programmes in a loyalist interface area for the past 6 weeks with a shoestring budget (as funders persistently told us “There aren’t problems at interfaces anymore”).
    2. As most of the stuff in North Belfast in the past week was nationalist initiated your suggestion should be better addressed at all communities.

  • slug

    Thanks, Fair_Deal. I didn’t understand much about these flute bands and relationship to OO so that helps.