Twelfth Riots: very little to do with parades per se

One tweet summed it up: amid all the concern about who was parading where, who was protesting when, and who was determining what, ultimately what happened last week was a few people went out with the specific intention of having a riot for reasons they did not know.

This article demonstrates aptly that most bonfires and parades pass off with much fun being had, much good being done, and very little in the way of trouble.

Yet in a few cases, it seems to me that a lot of young men (and increasingly women, it appears) look forward to the Twelfth in certain parts of Belfast precisely because it gives them the opportunity to let off some steam – after all, a riot involving a whole raft of weapons from golf balls to hand grenades is hardly spontaneous. Looked at remotely objectively, the idea that they do this merely because a parade was or was not allowed past a few shop fronts is obviously laughable – a riot would blatantly have occurred regardless of any Commission’s determination, thus instantly dismissing any attempt by “leaders” to suggest the Parades Commission had anything to do with it. And frankly, if a parade route is all the Northern Irish have to worry about in the current global economic climate, they must live truly blessed lives!

Of course, that is not all the Northern Irish have to worry about, hence the point occasionally made on the peripheries that the rioting is really a social issue (often stated in terms of an implicit suggestion that young men, particularly those out of work, have nothing better to do with their lives that riot occasionally). That point hints at the truth, but is grossly simplified and actually offensive – most out-of-work people in Northern Ireland (as everywhere else in the British Isles) don’t riot about it.

Alex Kane and others are thus right to point out that this is nothing to do with the “voices of the unheard” – in fact, if anything, the problem is that some voices are overheard. Fundamentally, my view is that the riots continue to be a result of our collective failure to understand what post-Agreement Northern Ireland really is – a failure encouraged, not tackled, by political and even civic leaders who have nothing to gain from actually being honest about it. We’ll come to this…

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One thought on “Twelfth Riots: very little to do with parades per se

  1. harryaswell says:

    I agree with most of what you say here. The main problem is, of course, that the original GFA was poorly discussed and undemocratically decided upon. People are seriously disallusioned, for whatever reasons. Far too many assumptions were made without consultation. The main biggy being that I do not reckon many people apart from Sinn Fein, would have sanctioned the early releases, particulary for those with blood on their hands, murderers in othe words. We live to rue that day for sure. Regarding the rioting, this does occur in known hotspots, possibly near streets divided by protective walls. That seems to indicate an unrepentant sectarianism from both sides. How to deal with that? Who knows. Money perhaps? The poor bloody PSNI have as usual allowed themselves to be caught between a stone and a hard place. They have been used as political toys. I fear Baggott is no politician!

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