The Summer of 2011: Comments on the Violence and Political Reactions

Following rioting from Belfast to Derry, Magherafelt to Larne, Ballyclare and beyond in the past few weeks, it is interesting to assess the differing reactions of political leaders to the violent scenes that have prominently occupied our screens.

Whilst the First and Deputy First Ministers made a concerted effort to maintain a united leaderly front throughout the violent outbreaks that have plagued the north for the past month- with the notable exception of Peter’s UVF outreach following that organisation’s premeditated attack on the Short Strand- the notable difference between how DUP and Sinn Fein representatives condemned the violence of their respective communities is worth noting in some detail.

Nationalist violence

Nationalist rioting occurred firstly in the Short Strand area, following on from the UVF’s attack on the small catholic enclave in East Belfast. The violence was clearly of an intense nature for many hours, and over a period of two nights shots were fired by republicans in which a couple of loyalists and a press photographer were hurt.

The response of mainstream republican political leaders was one of condemnation of the violence, and numerous reports from the area have suggested that mainstream republican leaders had a number of verbal altercations with known dissident figures as the former sought to keep a lid on the violence from the nationalist end.

Subsequently, nationalist rioting first broke out in the Broadway area of Belfast on the 11th Night.

Robert McClenaghan and Jennifer McCann, both influential mainstream republican representatives in West Belfast, clearly condemned the Broadway rioters in forthright terms and sought to make clear that such individuals did not act in a manner representative of the local community.

Had they been of a mind to excuse the gratuitous violence visited upon the area by nationalist youths, they could have found several plausible excuses.

The fact that loyalist youths had stolen items from the local republican memorial garden in St. James’ just days before the rioting was clearly an act of provocation, and the presence of bonfires adorned with nationalist emblems just across the unofficial peaceline that is the Broadway roundabout could have been pointed out if the agenda was to provide some cover for the actions of the rioters.

But Robert McClenaghan and Jennifer McCann did not seek to obfuscate the matter. They vilified only those involved in wrecking the local neighbourhood and Mr McClenaghan even sought to make clear that there had been no provocation from within the protestant and unionist community on the night, an important addendum.

Furthermore, it has since emerged that a local residents group had distributed leaflets in the local area prior to the Twelfth of July inferring that families could face eviction from their Housing Executive properties if their children were involved in the violence.

Subsequent nationalist violence occurred in a number of parts of Belfast, Derry and elsewhere, and the consistent message from all strands of mainstream republican opinion was condemnatory.

That leadership is important as it helps to challenge stereotypes and formulate opinions within local communities, preventing people from lapsing into sectarian perceptions which tend to go largely unchallenged, not least at a time when community relations are traditionally stretched to their limits.

In one sense, it is in this type of scenario that the leadership skills and experience of Sinn Fein leaders has come to the fore. Rather than feel under pressure to avoid making conciliatory gestures at this most fractious of times, the Deputy First Minister was revealed just days before the Twelfth of July to have been lobbying the British government to make it easier for people born in the Republic to claim British citizenship, a gesture taken up in support of Donegal-born DUP MLA Willie Hay.

Loyalist Violence

Alas, this was not the same approach adopted by most unionist political leaders following the loyalist violence visited upon the unsuspecting residents of Ballyclare, the Short Strand and Magherafelt’s Leckagh estate.

The Unionist political reaction to the UVF-orchestrated violence in Short Strand could only be described as mealy-mouthed. Instead of condemning the sectarian violence for what it was, we were treated to a barely concealed attempt to justify the violence through claiming it was reactionary, a narrative shared by loyalists only too happy to be portrayed by their political representatives in a quasi-protector role. Even though the holes in that argument have been clearly exposed due to the contradictory nature of the subsequent comments of local loyalists, the cowardice of their political leaders will have meant that grassroots loyalism has remained unchallenged by unionist political leaders in an area where substantive evidence has long existed of a nefarious campaign by the local UVF leader to mobilise his organisation in the locality.

With regard to the violence in Ballyclare, the DUP South Antrim MP Willie McCrea, whilst opposing the violence, provided a media line seeking to emphasise an apology provided by the PSNI to loyalists for rioting when flags erected outside a catholic church were removed, accompanied by prominent loyalist spokesperson Ken Wilkinson.

No condemnation was uttered from unionist spokespersons of loyalists for engaging in the blatant act of sectarian intimidation which precipitated the PSNI action, and the subsequent re-erection of the flags by loyalists has earned not a word of critical comment from either unionist politicians nor the PSNI. Depressingly, unionist politicians used the occasion to point to the failure of the PSNI to remove Irish National flags erected in nationalist areas across many parts of the north, thereby deliberately obfuscating the issue, leaving Justice Minister David Ford to intervene appropriately and no doubt further consolidate his party’s growing support base within the liberal unionist community.

However, comments made by Lagan Valley DUP MLA Paul Girvan during one radio interview illustrate that the DUP have conceded that the erection of loyalist flags outside of a catholic church is a provocative action which should be opposed. During the interview, Girvan announced that his party had ensured that no Union Flags were erected outside of St Patrick’s Church in Lisburn this year, an issue which was the subject of this thread I posted last year.

The Magherafelt violence included a number of attacks on catholic owned homes in the estate, as well as an attack on the home of a member of the local District Policing Partnership.

Yet the Newsletter carried the reaction of two DUP representatives to the Magherafelt violence, a response depressingly typical:

A number of houses were targeted and police were attacked by missiles in the Leckagh estate after a mob blocked a road close to a bonfire site.

It is understood that one of the houses attacked is the home of a member of the local policing partnership.

The violence erupted simultaneously with the trouble in Ballyclare, Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus.

Local DUP councillor Paul McLean said he did not believe the disturbances in Magherafelt were connected,

Sinn Fein, he claimed, had stoked tensions last week by their demands for the removal of a bonfire in neighbouring Castledawson.

“There has been whispers circulating that contractors were going to move in and take down the bonfires and this, as you can imagine, has really caused a lot of tension across the Magherafelt area,” said Mr McLean.

“I was down in Leckagh estate and I saw young people out cleaning up the estate after the trouble.

“I cannot say for sure that the attacks on homes were just sectarian.

“I think this was a situation that has got out of control and people from outside the area became involved – this is not something we want to see. There has been a lot of good work in Leckagh and I am hopeful that this will continue,” he added.

Party colleague Anne Forde, who lives in the estate, said the violence was not “purely sectarian” but a reaction to “Sinn Fein dominance” after the recent elections.

Thus, “Sinn Fein dominance” after recent elections is now an excuse for ‘retaliatory’ loyalist violence.

The mythical nature of loyalism’s ‘retaliatory’ violence

The attempt to portray the loyalist violence as reactive remains a consistent theme of unionist political leaders.

This is not only a fallacy but indicative of a mindset unwilling to attribute blame in a manner which may place the politicians apart from the paramilitaries within unionism. The default urge to perceive loyalist violence as the malign manifestation of a benign impulse remains too strong and therefore the political leadership required to face down paramilitary organisations which clearly have little intention of going away remains absent.

Hence the tolerance of the utterly bogus alienation narrative, as well as the willingness to stretch personal and political credibility by propagating the mythical excuses as a reason to provide a context for the violence.

There has been no attempt to attribute blame in an unqualified manner on the rioters of Ballyclare, Magherafelt or East Belfast, and consequently unionist politicians have missed another opportunity to provide a strong leadership message at a time when it is increasingly obvious that loyalist paramilitaries are cranking up their violence.

On that note, an interesting snippet carried by BBC Talkback (11/7/11) once again illustrates why we could do with a few investigative journalists looking to follow some fairly obvious trails.

Whilst reporting on the Ballyclare violence, a BBC Talkback reporter, Barbara Collins, in the town pointed out that local youths were going door to door apologising for the upset caused by the violence to some locals and offering a can of home heating oil to residents.

The questions immediately shouting out to be answered include who sent the youths around the doors and who provided the home heating oil, and was it a voluntary donation? Alas, nothing more has been heard of the matter, though at least the UUP MLA Danny Kinahan noted his concern (in a jovial manner) about where the oil may have come from in an interview conducted immediately after the youths had left the house concerned.

Unionist political leaders met with the representatives of the loyalist paramilitaries within hours of the outbreaks of violence in both East Belfast and Ballyclare, moves which it was claimed helped to diffuse tensions but which –in the case of Ballyclare- appeared to culminate in a unity of purpose to blame the PSNI for the violence.

It will be worth monitoring the arrest rate with regard to these riots to ensure that the price extracted by the loyalists wasn’t a reduction in the arrest rate amongst loyalists in these areas, and with that in mind, it must be hoped that the unfortunate PSNI apology does not detract the police from arresting and charging a significant number of loyalists in the south east Antrim area.

To date, the absence of any PSNI arrests in that area must be a serious cause for concern for anybody interested in promoting the PSNI as a non-partisan police service.

The significance of the application/ rejection of the alienation narrative

Alienation is a much vexing term, and its frequent application invites ridicule. Yet it is entirely appropriate to acknowledge that it is in areas of relative social and economic deprivation that disaffection with the peace and political processes has and will always fester.

This is nothing new and nor is it novel to our part of the world. It requires strong political leadership to minimise the opportunities for those with a destabilising agenda to exploit natural feelings of disaffection for their own political agenda. That rioting occurred almost exclusively in nationalist and loyalist working classes areas is therefore not surprising.

The alienation narrative which was put forward as an excuse for the loyalist rioting in East Belfast could also have been brought in to play by nationalist representatives. Indeed, given that all of the objective criteria point to working class nationalist areas of Belfast and Derry as predominating the most deprived wards across the Six Counties, such reasoning could be viewed as even more plausible than when put forward by loyalists.

So why was the alienation narrative not taken up by nationalist political representatives as an excuse for the rioting?

Martin McGuinness did not follow Peter Robinson’s lead in seeking to meet with dissident republican leaders in the midst of the violence, and nor did he approach Robinson to agree to a civil servant being appointed to examine the issues allegedly causing the violence in the localities where nationalists rioted on and after the Twelfth of July.

His reasoning was very clear. There is no appetite within nationalist political circles to provide ‘grey’ areas in relation to judgements on the violence precisely because mainstream republicans are only too well aware that so doing will give succour to dissident republicans and blur the peace process narrative.

Political opponents will undoubtedly point out that Sinn Fein has not always opposed unrest at street level,  and the downplaying of a political motive to the nationalist violence by mainstream republican spokespersons is a transparently obvious attempt to prevent others from seizing political ground from mainstream republicans who are now firmly embedded in the northern state’s institutions.

This strategy is not without risk and it has meant that Sinn Fein’s credibility is contingent upon the rhetoric of a non-partisan PSNI being transformed into a living reality, something that is damaged when the PSNI kow-tow to loyalists in Ballyclare and seem to operate two standards when it comes to making arrests of loyalists and republicans.

Ironically, only a handful of years after Sinn Fein has agreed to encourage the nationalist and republican community to support the PSNI, it would now appear that Sinn Fein has a more credible claim to be a law and order party than the DUP, who have yet to fully appreciate the need to stand against those from within their own community who are acting against the peace and be prepared to vilify them in precisely the same manner they seek to have Sinn Fein stand against dissident republicans.

 

  • sonofstrongbow

    So-called mainstream Republicans have condemned some violence allegedly organised by their alleged ‘political’ opponents within the Republican community. The ‘dissidents’, Sinn Fein’s past and (when the mood takes them) future friends will no doubt be sharing a beer in the Felon’s Club come the autumn. There has been no sea change in Republicans’ attitude to violence and tediously lengthy spin will not convince anyone there has been.

    Unionists condemned loyalist violence but also preferred working behind the scenes to defuse things rather than the empty rhetorical grandstanding so beloved of Sinn Fein.

    Sinn Fein the “law and order” party? Witness the hysteria following the PSNI’s cack-handed performance in Ballyclare whipped up by the Shinners proclaiming the presence of the usual suspects: ‘political policing’ and sectarian partisanship. When Sinn Fein begin giving up their pals who shoot police officers using Sinn Fein weaponry, supposedly ‘decommissioned’, then they will have some small basis to be seen as supporters of law and order.

  • Nobody can be in any way surprised at the News Letters coverage adnd editorial slant on the violence. There have been progressive editors of the NL in the past but the present encumbent isn’t one of them. He consistently plays to the gallery as if his readership was going through the floor, justifies loyalist activities and the placing of provocative flags by loyalists in sensitive areas.

  • Dec

    sonofstrongbow

    I’m confused; when SF unreservedly condemn republican rioting it’s ’empty rhetorical grandstanding’
    However when they criticise the ‘cack-handed’ (your words) police response to loyalist violence, it’s ‘whipping up hysteria’. What manner of response would receive your seal of approval?

    (I’m assuming, of course, there is a ‘third way’ and you just haven’t read Chris’ post, missed every single point contained within it ,and have typed up some paint-by-numbers internet rant to pass the time before the Jeremy Kyle show starts.)

  • patio dev

    sonofstrongbow,
    I’ve read your post several times over; it appears you are accusing Sinn Fein of collusion with dissidents, have you evidence of this? I would be genuinely interested. From your tone, I’m guessing your rightly condemning such behaviour, and it’s this sentiment that confuses me; because you appear to congratulate the DUP/UUP for talking with violent loyalists. ‘Behind closed doors’/’Behind the scenes’. At what point does talking become collusion?

    Maybe it’s when they appear on TV sharing a platform with those who espouse violence?

  • sonofstrongbow

    Dec,

    “I’m confused”. Impressive self-reflection. Well done.

    patio dev,

    You equate “talking” with “collusion”? I know Republicans are getting a little frantic in their quest to expand the definition of collusion but come on calm down now lad. I was once caught in the background of a TV picture of an animal rights protest. Although I was going about my own business I never knew I was colluding with the protestors.

    Oh dear I’ve just realised that in your world I’m colluding with you now. Who’d have thunk it?

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris,

    I’m not sure your argument actually supports this assertion:

    “…it would now appear that Sinn Fein has a more credible claim to be a law and order party than the DUP.”

    Now, I would not in least denigrate the timely stand Jennifer took in condemning the violence at Broadway, not least because it was unprovoked.

    I am a great deal more suspicious of what went down at Short Strand. No offense to Niall either who I understand did all he could to prevent the escalation of the violence on the nationalist side.

    So what was it exactly that the DUP failed to do during these riots that you believe weakens their support for law and order, other than not buy SF’s spin that ‘it was the prods wot done it?’

  • stewart1

    ‘I am a great deal more suspicious of what went down at Short Strand. No offense to Niall either who I understand did all he could to prevent the escalation of the violence on the nationalist side.’

    The Police were pretty unequivocal regarding the UVF’s Orchestration and coordination of the violence around Short Strand. The UVF turned it on and off as they pleased.

    They attacked homes from three points around the area and they got a natural reaction from residents. The UVF then took off their balaclava’s on the Wednesday and put on
    Fluorescent bibs.

    Nothing suspicious about it Mick!

  • Mick Fealty

    No first cause?

  • John Ó Néill

    Interesting to see the various episodes pulled together Chris. Discourse within unionism cannot seem to coherently engage with the huge disconnect between its rhetoric and praxis around violence. That extends to the wider body politic that includes elements of civic society and much of the press etc, whereby the hysterical clamour, including printing photos etc of rioters in Ardoyne, has not been matched with any degree of alarm around loyalist violence this summer. The only available metric, obviously, will be arrests and convictions. But there is something repetitive in the inability of unionists to understand the gap between what they say and do.

  • Mick Fealty

    Not sure I follow that either John. Specifically what should ‘they’ have done, that ‘they’ did not do to support law and order?

  • John Ó Néill

    Mick, so far this summer (and generally as a matter of practice) their response to violence from loyalists has been to mull over various scenarios that they claim prompted it and clearly do so to provide justification. Chris has outlined this for Magherafelt above. [And, in fairness, I have never claimed to believe that the DUP, or UUP, are, or ever were a law and order party].
    I pointed out in a previous thread that this was pretty embarassing when it occured after the recent UVF actions against the Short Strand as it was clear from the very public scrolling through that unionists were seeking to find some casus belli rather than condemn the UVF actions outright since, by implication, nationalists generally just bring these things onto themselves.

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, if that were true, I’d be interested in seeing some instances where DUP politicians sought to justify loyalist paramilitary violence. That I don’t recall such does not mean it didn’t happen, it requires evidence to make it convincing.

    As a sceptical editor and a writer I don’t even trust myself without back reference to prior evidence.

  • I think its too early to talk about the Summer violence as hindsight. I fear there is more to go.
    Many Sluggerites (including myself) attended a debate actually a debate in East Belfast last night actually chaired by Danny Kinahan MLA…..which referenced much of went on during the Summer.
    I was heartened by the upbeat nature of the debate and will be blogging about it later today.

  • John Ó Néill

    Mick – how else would you categorise the protracted public discussion to search for the ‘first cause’ of what happened with the UVF in the Short Strand (the search on its own implies that was purely reaction to something rather than the UVF may be agents in deploying violence in their own right)?

    More generally, the historical response by unionists to violence actions on the part of the UVF, UFF etc was extremely limited and often highly qualified (e.g. the recurring use of the term ‘reactive’ as part mitigation). Hence I believe that unionism’s support for ‘law and order’ has almost always been contingent on a local interpretation of what constitutes ‘law and order’. If I’m pushed, I could go document a group of random case studies of unionist politician’s reponses to UVF/UFF murders (e.g. based on newspaper reporting of statements in the immediate aftermath in a relatively neutral medium such as the Irish Times). That sounds like hard work and I’d expect the generic response to be whataboutery.

  • Reader

    John Ó Néill: …how else would you categorise the protracted public discussion to search for the ‘first cause’ of what happened …
    This is called “yes-buttery”. But hey – what-about the yes-buttery from themmuns too?

  • Mick Fealty

    John,

    I’m just *deeply* suspicious that first cause was sought for and never found. And what’s offered in it’s place (ie, the power struggles within the UVF) does not in the least explain what triggered the violence itself.

    I’ve a further problem with the conceit of tying Ballyclare into all of this. It’s part of a process in which ‘community representatives’ are given power to over ride statute. It has nothing to do with the raw expression of Loyalist power over Catholic neighbours. but rather is one of the more undesirable sub-judicial out-workings of the Peace Process.

    It’s undesirable, but it’s also a legacy from that period when one of our largest political parties could not bring itself to support the official channels of law and order.

    Projecting the causes of this summer’s violence on to one party is simply not credible as you begin to look anyway closely at the telling detail. It’s a mess , and one compound by some key decisions made on the rocky and winding road to what we now call peace.

  • I asked a question a couple of weeks ago and, disappointingly, nobody answered.
    Was the violence this year worse, about the same, or less than last year?

  • Mick Fealty,

    Re the situation in E Belfast, for two days running in The News Letter there have been articles detailing attacks from the Short Strand on the Cluan Place enclave:

    http://tinyurl.com/3bn2wjv

    “If our community feels they’re (the police) not doing their job, who do we have to turn to?

    “Other people will get involved, they will retaliate and there will be a lot of trouble. We don’t want that – all we want is to live in peace.”

    Which can be taken at face value (and the attacks on Cluan Place are certainly not imaginary) but also as a none too subtle warning- they have obviously been taking lessons from the Short Strand’s well-oiled PR team.

    This from O’Donnghaile today in response is a strange one, almost as if he as been caught on the hop by a loyalist merely asking him to do what Republicans are always demanding of the OO:

    http://tinyurl.com/3tqok3g

    Mr O’Donnghaile acknowledged that there is trouble at “several interfaces” across the city, however he said the issue was an anti-social one as opposed to sectarian.
    He said: “In the main, these sporadic attacks are being carried out by anti-social elements within both communities.

    Whether the brick through your window is an anti-social or sectarian one is, I’d say, rather besides the point.
    And why the use of the word “sporadic”? Again, whether a brick or a snooker ball thrown at children is “sporadic” is missing the point.

    “There has been and is a lot of work being done within both communities and across the interface to bring the attacks to an end and this work needs to be supported and bolstered.”

    Fair enough but then…

    Mr O’Donnghaile would not confirm, however, whether he has received an invitation from Mr Jackson to meet or whether he would take him up on the offer.

    Why ever not, what’s he (o’Donnghaile) and the Short Strand got to lose?

  • John Ó Néill

    Mick – I think that is one interpretation. And I know mine is purely a personalised opinion as well – but I didn’t read Chris’ piece as being a black-and-white determination of the causes of violence this summer but rather than a review of the attitudes expressed by DUP members to that violence. I feel that it relates opinions that don’t deviate significantly from those expressed over a much longer period of time and, in effect, demonstrate one of the structural weaknesses/failures in the ‘peace process’ regarding re-tuning attitudes.

  • pippakin

    joe

    I thought it was a bit less than previous years, which is not to say that one outbreak or another may not have been a bit worse but that generally it was better. Ardoyne for instance was active but not as bad as last year.

    I think the tendency to try to blame a political party of whatever colour if they fail to leap in with the ‘usual’ condemnation can in itself prevent them making the condemnation, especially if there are talks going on in the background. I don’t think any one of them want to rock the boat.

  • Joe,

    Was the violence this year worse, about the same, or less than last year?

    With social media we are becoming constantly better informed about the slightest ruction, I think that also has the tendency to exaggerate the effect

  • Mick Fealty

    John,

    Fair enough.

    My quibble is that there’s no specific evidence to support the general conclusion. Fine if you already share Chris’ belief in what happened this summer, but at the heel of the hunt it doesn’t rationally hang together.

  • Chris Donnelly

    I’m just *deeply* suspicious that first cause was sought for and never found. And what’s offered in it’s place (ie, the power struggles within the UVF) does not in the least explain what triggered the violence itself.

    I’ve a further problem with the conceit of tying Ballyclare into all of this. It’s part of a process in which ‘community representatives’ are given power to over ride statute. It has nothing to do with the raw expression of Loyalist power over Catholic neighbours. but rather is one of the more undesirable sub-judicial out-workings of the Peace Process.

    It’s undesirable, but it’s also a legacy from that period when one of our largest political parties could not bring itself to support the official channels of law and order.

    Projecting the causes of this summer’s violence on to one party is simply not credible as you begin to look anyway closely at the telling detail. It’s a mess , and one compound by some key decisions made on the rocky and winding road to what we now call peace.

    Mick
    Let’s take these one by one….

    1. The fact that you can’t locate the ‘first cause’ you are seeking is pretty telling and indicative of precisely what I am talking about.

    It is a broadly accepted fact that low level violence at interfaces occurs on a depressingly regular basis.

    But the nature of the UVF’s orchestrated violence could only be deemed a ‘reaction’ to a first cause by one seeking to deflect blame from where it lay for that violence.

    As I pointed out in some detail, both Jennifer McCann and Robert McClenaghan could have played that ‘first cause’ game to deflect blame away from the nationalist rioters in Broadway.

    The fact that they didn’t is telling. Indeed, through my examples I have shown that the ‘reactive’ aspect of loyalist violence is highly suspect and a recurring theme regarding unionist political pronouncements on loyalist violence.

    2. The loyalist riot in Ballyclare, and the reaction of both unionist representatives and the PSNI, is wholly relevant to this discussion, and it is deceitful to suggest otherwise.

    To suggest it had nothing to do with loyalists ‘raw expression of power’ over their catholic neighbours is to ignore the motive for the positioning of the flags. After all, flags in this area were removed last year following discussions with loyalists; their reappearance can hardly be taken as anyhting other than an attempt to reignite an issue.

    Furthermore, the utterances of DUP MLA Paul Girvan regarding flags outside St Patrick’s Church in Lisburn illustrate how DUP representatives have accepted this to be an issue.

    Consequently, the decision of DUP MP Willie McCrea to make a public statement alongside PUP spokesman, Ken Wilkinson, emphasising the PSNI apology whilst not calling for either the removal of the flags or support for the PSNI actions is quite relevant.

    3. I don’t think anyone could reasonably conclude that I am projecting the causes of violence onto one party through my post. Indeed, the thrust of my post, backed up with numerous examples, was to indicate how the DUP remain uncomfortable in treating loyalist paramilitaries as a threat to the peace/ political process in contrast to how Sinn Fein have been much more robust and clear in exposing the activities of those either implicated in or inspired by dissident republican organisations in spite of the traditional hostility of Irish nationalists and republicans to the police.

    4. The general conclusion, as you call it, is meant more in ironic terms. I have always been suspicious of political parties and lobby groups who label themselves as being strong on law and order, as the DUP tend to like to be viewed.

    Regarding their willingness to play the whataboutery game to contextualise loyalist violence and thereby add a splash of grey, it is entirely correct to note how this is increasingly at odds with a more strident line adopted by their partners in OFMDFM, Sinn Fein.

  • lamhdearg

    Chris,
    it seems you are being selective in your use of s.f. statements, Jennifer McCann and Robert McClenaghans words where a breath of fresh air and we all hope for more like it from all, but compare them to gerry kellys (a senior s.f. figure)attempts to blame the police after the ardoyne riots.

  • Brian

    I am generally in agreement with Chris here, but that is besides the point. The fact is neither SF nor DUP are in control of the teenagers and hardcore dead enders who continue to engage in these destructive and pointless acts of violence. What politicans say doesn’t make a load of difference to these people, if it ever did.

    I want to see the full power of the law being used against any rioter, be they sectarian or just anti-social, unaffiliated or paramilitary. Use all the cameras around the area, sift through the film, and nab these people. Nothing else will stop this. Hopefully, the time has come where all can get behind the PSNI to combat this problem. Unionist and nationalist policitians should stand together and declare their support for increasing PSNI’s anti riot tactics and punishment. I won’t hold my breath, though.

  • ranger1640

    When it comes to rioting in Ardoyne it seems that republicans are keen to find who “created the riots”. Strange way to describe a riot as “created”. Is there an implication that by using “created”, the violence at the republican part of Ardoyne on the 12th July was predictable and organized???

    “Much has been written about the rioting. However, what has been missing has been who actually created the riots in the first place especially in S/F’s nonsensical leaflet of lies being distributed”.

    “The day before, Sinn Fein members visited residents in Estorial Pk and Balhom Dr and maliciously informed them that GARC’s march would cause a riot and they should remove all their garden ornaments and patio furniture etc. They were also told that S/F would be present in numbers to prevent trouble makers. This begs the question WHY were S/F cowering in the Chapel grounds within the sterile area clearly agreed between them and the PSNI. In order for them to hold their facilitation protest under the guise of CARA”.

    http://greaterardoyneresidents.blogspot.com/

    GARC are implying that PSNI actions, created the riot. GARC then states that “Sinn Fein members visited residents in Estorial Pk and Balhom Dr and maliciously informed them that GARC’s march would cause a riot and they should remove all their garden ornaments and patio furniture etc”.

    So which is right, was it the actions of the PSNI, as claimed by GARC??? or was it as Sinn Fein are alleged to have claimed in their poster, preordained rioting would be “created” by GARC foolish counter demonstration???

  • Comrade Stalin

    So what was it exactly that the DUP failed to do during these riots that you believe weakens their support for law and order,

    For me, the point where the police were made to apologize for doing their duty was a low point in the political process. It’s hard to think of anything more damaging to the rule of law than to have elected politicians forcing the police to get down on their knees before a bunch of rioting thugs.

    I thought it was a stark moment that, given the choice between siding with the rioting paramilitaries or the police, the DUP consistently choice to side with the paramilitaries and specifically against the police on each occasion where this issue came up. As I have said before, I find this especially ironic given that the DUP made support of the police and the courts a fundamental prerequisite for participation in our political progress.

    Regarding Short Strand, anyone who knows the reality down there knows that anti-social attacks across the peace line are a sadly regular fact of life. The attacks come and go in phases, like they do anywhere else. The police will tell you this. They’ll also tell you that they can’t do anything to stop it and that it must be solved by the communities – a response which frustrates all of us. To claim that the UVF was provoked into acting, against a backdrop where credible security sources point to the deep discontent within loyalism over the peace dividend, the election results and (most important) the activities of the HET and SOCA, especially in East Belfast, serves to lend credibility to thuggery as an expected response to low-level crime. The UVF may well see the anti-social/sectarian attacks on Cluan Place as a pretext, but they were compelled to act for other reasons and the police themselves called it as such.

    Martin McGuinness called the dissident republicans who murder and attempt to murder police officers as traitors and conflict junkies. I do not see why it is so hard for the DUP to cast the UVF, who fired on police lines, in the same light.

  • aolbfs

    Why is it that unionists and loyalists labour under the misapprehension that their culture is above the law?
    They are not free to “express their culture” wherever and whenever they want.
    The law of their beloved UK clearly provides for the modification, refusal, re-routing (or other such action as may be deemed appropriate and lawful) of their “expressions of culture” as deemed fit by the authorities.
    This law also applies to nationalist parading, which is strictly controlled and directed according to the law currently in force.
    This is just as it should be, and I see no valid reason whatever why unionists/loyalists believe they should be exempt from it.
    The DUP seriously needs to take on loyalism and the Orange Order, to make them arrive at the inescapable truth of the matter: their rights are no more important than anyone elses, they are subject to exactly the same law as the rest of us. The whole issue of parading must be taken by the horns now, instead of limping on, year-to-year, festering and erupting into senseless violence. There are contentious parades, but, thankfully, fairly few. The so-called ‘loyal’ (though to whom, one would wonder) orders must be forced, if necessary, by every legal instrument available to talk openly and respectfully with the residents of areas where they are not normally welcomed on the issue of parading, and these residents must return the compliment by treating the order(s) with the respect they themselves require. They must sort out the issue out so those of us who are tired of being held to ransom every year can get on with our lives without this tribal nonsense every year. But the total intransigence of the Orange Order must be faced down, by legislation if required. We elect people to “run” this place. We don’t elect the Orange Order, which has no right under British law to assume it can ignore the law when it doesn’t like it.
    What we have here is a situation wherein the likes of those who would apply to appear on the Jeremy Kyle show are facilitated in believing that whenever they get the hump about anything, they have some ‘right’ to go on the rampage. If they were in England, they’d know their driver, as we so eloquently say here. Nor would they be allowed get away with it again after a first occurrence. In the States, they’d be beaten off the streets. Why should we have to forever put up with their bile, vitriol and mutual hatred?

  • USA

    Well said Chris Donnelly,
    I can agree with most of what you say here.

    Mick,
    Don’t know what you want from the guy. The OO and related flag issues/ sectarianism / violence comes around every year. It’s not rocket science.
    Unionist politicians practically sided with the rioters and not the PSNI. Complete cowardice by the DUP, while the UUP remained silent on the issue…..not good enough either.

    I also will be looking to see arrests follow. The PSNI must be seen to be fair, and Unionist politicians should not be making the job of the police any harder than it already is.

    50/50 recruitment should also be restored until Catholic representation reaches 40%. I think we are currently only at around 28% and that is not sufficient. We cannot leave the PSNI open to criticism or to have them seen as being any other than representative of the communities from which they are recruited.

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris,

    4. Suspicion is good. But I don’t know what you’ve managed to prove other than you are suspicious of the DUP.

    3. The truth is that we had three nights of rioting in Republican areas right across Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein have a big problem in their own backyard.

    As Lamh Derg points out, Sinn Fein was not consistent with the law and order messages over in Derry and Ardoyne where the blame was landed “the premature use of water cannon”.

    Contrast that with Jennifer’s unambiguous: “What I witnessed last night was a disorganised mob attacking police lines.”

    2. Ballyclare. Let me re-frame slightly what I was trying to say (not that far from CS’s point in fact) by quoting Newton Emerson’s piece in last Saturday’s Irish News:

    The union flags erected outside a Catholic church in Ballyclare breached one of these agreements and hence the PSNI was fully entitled to remove them.

    Just to underscore what nonsense the legal versus illegal distinction is, certain “residents” told UTV the loyalist flags weren’t illegal either as “they simply commemorated those who fought in the Battle of the Somme”.

    In other words, despite all the efforts and ugly compromises poured into these agreements, ‘community representatives’ reserve the right to change the rules as operational reasons require. Currently, this means causing trouble with the quite deliberate aim of being bought off.

    The protocol system was devised to give real residents, the kind too frightened to speak to UTV, some respite from sectarian branding.

    Most people do not want flags in residential areas, at any time or of any description. This is particularly true in suburban south Antrim, where young families spill out of Belfast into neutral new developments, only belatedly realising how fragile these peace process paradises are.

    The PSNI cannot police every lamppost or protect even the handful of people who might stand up to their local goon squad but as one of the parties to a flag agreement it is supposed to make the deal stick.

    Just doing the deal sends a dangerous signal that the paramilitaries are officially endorsed. Failing to uphold it sends an unmistakeable signal that they are also effectively in charge.

    Now let me spell this out. This empowering of so-called ‘community representatives’ is a corrosion of democratic power. Further, it’s also proof that, de facto, we do not yet have a consensus on law and order.

    To further reference CS’s post, this is exactly the situation the compromise the cops are making in Short Strand/Cluan Place/Newtownards Road, that unravelled so spectacularly earlier this month.

    1. First cause to me is not who threw the first stone. It’s what’s given rise to the problem in the first place. In the case of Cluan Place it was clearly anti social behaviour, and in the second that the UVF still believe they are involved in community protection sufficient to then believe its perfectly okay to red Catholic pensioners out of their homes.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mick:

    As Lamh Derg points out, Sinn Fein was not consistent with the law and order messages over in Derry and Ardoyne where the blame was landed “the premature use of water cannon”.

    No, they weren’t, they’re still learning.

    But I have greater expectations from the political parties who, at every turn, describe themselves as decent, law-abiding people who support the rule of law and who make a big issue out of requiring that other people do the same.

    The protocol system was devised to give real residents, the kind too frightened to speak to UTV, some respite from sectarian branding.

    Most people do not want flags in residential areas, at any time or of any description.

    I don’t know what to think about this. I might believe it to be the case, but I think that the contingent of people who are sympathetic to the UVF or to the flag business within those neighbourhoods are large enough that the DUP wanted to avoid taking a line that might be considered hostile, and accordingly suffering the consequences.

    We’re always being told here and elsewhere that unionism finds paramilitarism abhorrent and that is why there are never any UDA or UVF politicians returned at the polls. If that is true I do not see why it is so difficult for the DUP to say that paramilitaries who continue to reserve the right to use violence are all bastards who do not speak for ordinary unionists and that the community should provide the police with their full support to get these parasites before the courts. We expect no less of SF – why not the DUP or UUP ?

    Unionist politicians have never stood up to naked sectarian aggression or paramilitarism originating from within their own electorate in any way that I can recall. Ordinary unionist-voting people (the ones who made up most of the numbers in the police etc) did – but their politicians never did. There is a PhD thesis in there for someone, but the conspiratorial side of me believes that there is still a latent mentality within unionism that the guns need to be kept under the table in case one day they are required – as such it is necessary to keep the UVF and UDA alive, albeit at arm’s length.

  • Mick, for info:

    redd·ed or reddredd·ing
    Definition of REDD
    transitive verb
    chiefly dialect
    : to set in order —usually used with up or out
    intransitive verb
    chiefly dialect : to make things tidy —usually used with up
    Origin of REDD
    Middle English (Scots), to clear, perhaps alteration of ridden — more at rid
    First Known Use: circa 1520

  • ranger1640, Thanks for quoting the GARC blogspot in your post chara.

    The SDLP, Priest, IRSP, Eirigi and RNU all agreed with GARC’s analysis of who created the riot in Ardoyne on the 12th – The RUC/PSNI who moved into the area much too quickly…As for S/F, Gerry Kelly and his cronies believe otherwise but were simply not close to the riot to know the truth! As they were in Holy Cross Church grounds…?

    For the past two years they have did much to demonise GARC and their position because it challenges the Party’s lengthy authority in North Belfast on the parading issue.

    Local people and the above organisations all know the truth behind what happened with the Cops on the Twelfth. It matters not what S/F, MMcG and GK say. The Peelers lost whatever ground they had gained in North Belfast because of their actions and especially firing even more plastic bullets than last year.

  • Chris Donnelly

    3. The truth is that we had three nights of rioting in Republican areas right across Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein have a big problem in their own backyard.

    Mick
    Regarding point 3, that may be the case, but the story is how they are seeking to deal with it.

    Laying the blame squarely on the rioters, not seeking to play the type of silly games the DUP are engaged in to deflect blame away from the sectarian antics of those involved, not to mention going as far as supporting the distribution of leaflets suggesting residents could effectively lose their homes if involved in rioting.

    All of which contrasts sharply with how the DUP are seeking to deal with the problem festering in their own back garden.

    1. First cause to me is not who threw the first stone. It’s what’s given rise to the problem in the first place. In the case of Cluan Place it was clearly anti social behaviour, and in the second that the UVF still believe they are involved in community protection sufficient to then believe its perfectly okay to red Catholic pensioners out of their homes.

    Mick
    Anti-social behaviour was not the first cause; the machinations of a local loyalist leader intent on ratcheting up tensions clearly were to blame. As I’ve stated above, Jennifer McCann and Robert McClenaghan could have chosen to play the ‘first cause’ (new term for ‘whataboutery’ I notice….) game with regard to Broadway.

    That they chose not to indicates a seriousness of intent to deal with the real first causes which remains absent within political unionism.

  • aquifer

    We need to dispose of the curious local tradition of not arresting and jailing rioters.

    Otherwise Northern Ireland’s No 1 bloodsport for spare young males could wreck the place.

    Could we put the snatch squads on electric mountain bikes?

    Have your laugh and then think about it. Electric bikes can be very fast.

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris

    You misread what I’ve said.

    The common link between Ballyclare the Strand is that too much ground has been ceded to ‘community leaders’. In the east Belfast case the leadership within one key organisation concerned just happens to be particularly unstable and therefore unreliable.

    But the difficulty under this system is that they continue to be given the impression they have licence to take whatever ‘legitimate’ action they deem essential. This is unaccountable power and is therefore frankly undesirable in any quarter.

    This is the real issue that Newton was hacking at last weekend. If people are to be slung into the dock for it both parties guilty. Because, as must be increasingly obvious, it ain’t working!

    CS suggested your argument that the DUP are less of a law and order party is okay because he expects more from them. Hmmm… I would not be so condescending.

    In my view the axiomatic fallacy here lies in the assumption that the Falls case was representative of a uniform response by SF. It wasn’t and the substance of your argument fails on that simple test alone.

    Please don’t read this as a defence of the DUP BTW. Or even an attack on SF. Its reps are manfully struggling street by street to maintain hearts and minds for the peace if not always for law and order.

    I’m simply testing what I consider to be an oversimplified and falsifiable argument.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Mick
    I understand what you’re saying but believe your emphasis on the significance of the ‘community leaders’ isn’t correct.

    Regardless of what ‘authority’ was ceded to such figures in the past, the key aspect of the story playing out this summer is that DUP representatives remain unwilling to directly challenge the loyalist figures who hold such positions in contrast to how Sinn Fein are willing to so do with regard to dissident republicans. Read Martina Anderson’s statement and you’ll see that it doesn’t simply apply to the Falls region.

    And, secondly, the consistent theme throughout the responses of DUP figures in particular to the violence is to attach a reactive label to the loyalist actions, whether that be in:

    Magherafelt (reacting to ‘whispers’ and Sinn Fein’s election results)

    Ballyclare (reacting to PSNI removal of a flag deliberately erected outside a Catholic Church to intimidate parishioners)

    East Belfast (reacting to alleged sectarian attacks by catholics)

    Portadown (reacting to the alleged removal of a flag and, in the eyes of MP David Simpson, the continuation of Drumcree dispute.)

    Now, much as I admire your defence of the DUP on these matters, it is a consistent pattern of behaviour which is hard to refute, and it makes a mockery of that party’s insistence that republicans stand apart from and against dissident republicans and is also indicative of an inability to directly confront those within unionism who remain wedded to violence.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’ve been working on my original post CHris since I first posted it by iPhone this morning. For which my apologies. I hope it deals with some of the points you raise a little more coherently than the original.

  • lamhdearg

    More one sided reporting.
    my next door neighbour whose brother live’s in southport court oldpark road, has told me that last night irish nationalists, gathered outside the seven bells bar Oldpark road, and threw bottles over the “peace wall” for at least a hour, then made there way down the oldpark road to attack non irish nats homes, where they engaged with a group of home owner’s. The psni, the bbc and the utv news web site’s are reporting the incidents as a sectarian riot with both side’s equally to blame, unlike in the east belfast trouble where the psni and the news outlets where happy to blame one side.

  • ranger1640

    My daughters 18year old friend lives on the Oldpark road and she put on her facebook, that they and their home came under an unprovoked attack by nationalist/republicans form the Oldpark road and Rosapenna Street. It was a prolonged and sustained incursion into the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist part of the Oldpark road, and they attacked many homes and vehicles.

    Nationalist/republicans have recent form here. A few weeks ago they did the same thing.

    She says that in one of the homes the nationalists/republicans gained entry to the house in spite of the best efforts of the home owner.

    She asked why were the nationalist/republicans carrying out these unprovoked attacks on them? She was asking where were the PSNI??? It was over an hour before the PSNI arrived and the first thing they did was to force the Protestants/Unionist/Loyalist away form their homes. Leaving the nationalist/republicans to run a muck outside their homes???

    She said that this was not the first time their homes have come under attack form nationalists/republicans, she goes on to say that she was glad her dad had reinforced their front door and put dead bolts on the door and put grills on the windows.

    Interesting that a camera was sited at the top of Hillview road about this time last year. After a long running champaign by Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist residents of the Oldpark.

  • grandimarkey

    Ranger1640, is that all not slightly off-topic?

    What are your thoughts on Unionist politicians public responses to Loyalist disorder in comparison to Nationalist politicians public responses to Republican disorder?

  • ranger1640

    The attack described above was in Manor Drive, over 100m from the junction of Oldpark road Rosappena Street the non existent peace line.

    Is this an organized cranking up of hostilities from the nationalist/republicans in this area. Trying to involve the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist community as cover for there power struggle in Ardoyne, between Sinn Fein and other republicans there.

    The PSNI and media described it as disturbances? Not a full blown incursion, why? There is a sterile area near to the peace line were disturbances take place not over 100m into a peaceful community, that is an invasion. The only person the BBC get to interview was a nationalist/republican strange that! When it was claimed that local community workers were called to restore calm???

    How come the BBC did not find any of these Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist community workers for their view? Just a nationalist/republican version of events. The media especially the BBC work in sectarian ways!!!

    Obviously the nationalists/republicans were reccing the area on the 11th July when they were involved in hours of rioting with the PSNI at the Oldpark road, Rosapenna street junction.

  • ranger1640

    Grand as I can’t put up posts I thought I would inform the poster from here.

    Back to your point and the post. Interesting that the media at this time 1500hrs have not put on any interviews from a Unionist/Loyalist perspective. However contrast that with the BBC’s online service which has in interview with a nationalist/republican!!! Strange that????? How can I tell you what I think of this when the Unionist voice is never heard!!!

  • AntrimObserver

    ‘The unionist voice is never heard’???

    What utter nonsense! The unionist community seems to be stuffed full of so-called community workers who are only too willing to spout off at the first opportunity.

    By the way, who actually employs these ‘community’ workers? What is the criteria for selection (apart from not looking out of place in a backstreet bare-knuckle fight)?

  • lamhdearg

    why is last nights attack/incursion by irish nationalists into the non irish nats lower oldpark the sixth of eight items on the utv news, are non irish nationalists lives/homes not on a par with irish nats, is it the news editors view that non irish nats are expendable.

  • grandimarkey

    ranger1640:
    “How can I tell you what I think of this when the Unionist voice is never heard!!!”

    Chris has outlined several public statements by Unionist politicians expressing their views.

    What is your opinion on his argument that Unionist responses to violence have been more equivocal than those of Nationalist leaders?

  • Brian

    GM

    Ranger doesn’t want to touch that question, which is why he is ignoring it altogether.

  • Chris’ main contention, namely that unionist parties are loath to condemn”loyalist” violence unconditionally, is sadly true. When the DFM can call “dissident” republicans traitors, I fail to see why the FM cannot do the same with “dissident” loyalists and condemn them unequivocally instead of inviting them to Stormont, no less, for tea and crumpets.

  • Mick Fealty

    GM, as I’ve said above, it only stands up if you ignore the evidence that SF has been contradictory. This is a ‘bow doors open’ argument.

  • Reader

    If anyone was willing to wade through the detail, check the reports and the coloured in maps etc. – how about the notion that politicians would be more likely to condemn ‘their own’ rioters if they were playing at home, rather than away?