You know the sort of thing- a child takes a step, gets a sticker, stands on a stage, passes a driving test, gets dressed up for a formal occasion, joins in a riot. All while you stand proudly by, beaming at their progress, revelling in their joy. Great stuff all together.
Go back a bit. Look at the video I took from Twitter. I’ve not been able to get it out of my head. I’m old enough to remember the marching band coming down along Main Street for Billy, the tales of people being waved off to war, but I’d never imagined that sort of celebration for a riot in Belfast.
There are many reasons for the current tensions in NI. Poor leadership and governance, criminality, chronic deprivation, inter generational trauma, the need for a night out. There are genuine concerns about the impact of Brexit. Children are being encouraged to ‘earn their stripes’ by those involved in organised criminality, drug dealing and paramilitarism.
Unionist politicians have stirred trouble, met with loyalist paramilitaries, raised the temperature. Now they’re tut tutting and staying at home, well away from the affected areas. That distance highlights one of the problems, lack of representation. Other issues continue to be educational & health inequalities. There’s been no ‘peace dividend’ for many in NI since the Agreement of 1998.
As I was writing this, news broke of the death of the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip. Oh, we wondered, surely those protesting their loyalty to the Crown would stop? Most did. Not all, of course. Some had been looking forward to some Friday night action, so went ahead. I don’t know how that affects their loyalty ranking.
It appears that paramilitary gangs will receive public funding to ‘transition’ to community groups. I thought we did that already.
Simply throwing money at such groups doesn’t work. Sustained investment in education, youth work, family support is required. Create opportunities, allow communities to move away from the control of drug gangs. Give it time and support. Believe that it’s work worth doing. Believe the people are worth doing it for.
Believe in people.