A lot has been said, rightly, about the lack of leadership around recent riots, which have primarily taken place in the Belfast area.
Worst of all is the view, widely promulgated both by the DUP and Sinn Fein, that riots are “inevitable”.
This is dangerous claptrap, frankly encouraging young men (predominantly) to go out and risk either injury or a criminal record which will have a seriously detrimental effect on their life chances in future. The politicians acting as apologists for rioters, meanwhile, will continue to draw their 50 grand a year on the Hill.
When the body legally charged with taking decisions about a parades routes does so, or the legitimate forces of law and order decide on their operations, or a Council makes a demoncratic decision, there is zero excuse for a riot, and there is zero point in a riot. Why can no one in the DUP, Sinn Fein or the Ulster Unionists simply come out and say that?
Indeed, right here and right now I challenge all the MLAs in the DUP, UUP and UKIP – always so keen on going on about how the “other side” breach the Rule of Law – simply to come out and say the riots were utterly inexcusable and that, when they started, any sensible person attending them would have sought to leave quickly and any responsible political representative would have urged them to do so. Go on, let us hear it!
We have a Commission appointed by the UK Government by law passed by the UK Government to determine parades routes of contentious parades; we have an impartial Police Service subject to the most complete oversight in the Western World; and we have democratically elected Councils subject to the will of the people as expressed via a broadly proportional system at elections. If you do not like decisions made by those bodies, you may seek to change them democratically, by voting in and even standing at elections and putting your case to the voters. We are fortunate to be in the minority worldwide who, when faced with a decision we don’t like, can subsequently and peacefully vote out those who made it (or who oversaw it). So there is, let us be clear again, zero excuse for a riot.
Every single MLA and civic office holder should be challenged to agree with that last paragraph – no ‘ifs’, no ‘buts’. Riots are absolutely not inevitable, and anyone suggesting they are is guilty of acting as an apologist for violence – and should be clear that the worst victims of that violence will be the impressionable young men wheeled out with their implicit support to participate in it.