Friday, 16 July 2010

Welcome to our nightmare

WE recently had a horrible nightmare – of struggling amidst sheets that tangle the legs, with a shadowy silhouette flicking across the curtains and the flare of burnt cars skittering through our troubled sleep.

Then we awoke – sadly it wasn’t a dream delivered by the ghost of Julys past.

The annual Twelfth riot/march/Orangefest/protest got underway with civil disturbances adorned by PSNI in full body armour and masked rioters.

The political reaction? Confused, garbled and with loads of commentary from those who should have known better.

First we had the First Minister Peter Robinson bristling at comments from a PSNI senior officer, who had the audacity – nah the cheek – to suggest that there needed to be better community leadership from politicians.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the First Minister reacted as if the police officers comments were a personal attack on him and his party colleagues. Did he sense an implicit criticism? Or was this a unique sign of political paranoia given elections are less than a year away.

Party colleague Lord Morrow, among others, criticised the police for not making more arrests and clamping down on the rioters in Ardoyne and other areas.

We, of course, do not know the experience Lord Morrow has or has not had of front line policing in north Belfast, or other interface areas. Nor do we know whether he has experience, or not, of making command decisions in a rapidly changing civil disturbance situation.

Which, makes it all the more ironic that Sinn Féin were commending, at times, the police, and pointing out that if someone breaks the law the police will, and should, be making arrests as appropriate when evidence is available.

Now, there have been those – who take the internet as a platform for making comments without engaging brain – who have said that Sinn Féin were impotent in the face of the riots.

However, so long as we in Northern Ireland are governed by a democracy – a democracy that establishes the right to govern by a mandate expressed at the electoral booth – we can judge that those who rioted, and those who encouraged others to riot do not have that mandate.

Ardoyne wards in the recent general election and recent European and Assembly elections singularly failed to either have representatives stand or representatives elected from any of the so-called dissident groups.

Which leads us to the conclusion that either there is a massive, untapped group that feels disenfranchised; or the couple of hundred rioters across Northern Ireland represent nothing other than a shade of a fraction of the people who every day get on with their lives, try to make a better future and try to achieve their political goals through the ballot box.

The ghost of Julys to come, we expect to visit us shortly. Its message will, we suspect, be that the dissidents of the republican side and the naysayers of the loyalist fringes will not be coming close to any successful political achievements at the doors of Stormont, Westminster or any venue where they have to explain their reasoning in anything more than a grunt of ‘no’ or the throwing of a petrol bomb.

That would be a parade then?

IT was not without a sense of the absurd that the consultation on a new body to replace the Parade’s Commission ended at a time when there were riots ostensibly about parades.

Said consultation ended with the Orange Order in a huff and rioters saying it was everybody’s fault except theirs for rioting.

Forgive us for being naïve, but we want to be clear on all this.

The Orange Order said the Parade’s Commission had to go. The reaction of some members of the Grand Lodge was yes, but no, but yes, but perhaps no to that new thingymabob that the DUP and Sinn Féin cooked up.

All rounded up with a maybe and we’ll see what else comes up and various slabbering on radio phone-ins.

And the feeder parade was allowed to pass the Ardoyne shops, but the Drumcree parade still got a no way!

The men and women happy to see children put in the front line of riots may, or may not have submitted a response to the consultation. But is seems that parades may have not been their first concern, otherwise the notion that civil disorder was about parades may have seen said civil disorder come to an end when the Twelfth had concluded.

Although it has to be said that the Belfast, Dublin train had to be stopped as it hadn’t the approval from the Parade’s Commission, and although it was using a traditional route, it was one that rioters felt compelled to stop…Parades Commission ruling notwithstanding

So, we think we’re clear now – The Orange Order isn’t sure what it wants, and the rioters are pretty sure they want; a riot but not too sure what the riot is about…

We’re all doomed: Chapter 42

ONE suspects that there is a secret plan to have the dark clouds of despair gathered ready to descend, before Finance Ministers and the Chancellor emerge in October to tell us all it isn’t as bad as we thought.

Once again, this week the men with the calculators and their Ministerial masters met in London to discuss budge cuts ahead of the October Spending Review.

And once again Minister for Finance and Personnel, Sammy Wilson reminded us of the cuts we’re to face and the fact that there may be a lot more in coming years.

This constant repetition of the message of doom is beginning to grate on the nerves. Does Sammy – and his partners across the land – need to constantly remind us of the situation lest we forget for a moment?

Or is this all about softening us up for the introduction of water charges with the implicit message that if we pay more bills we won’t have as many cuts….

Will we see the DUP ministerial team force through a plan which will see householders pay more to government for a service (sounds like a tax…) which will be used to make sure some public services are protected…

We eagerly await the conclusion to this “We’re All Doomed” story to be entitled: “The Blame Game – it wasn’t us what done it guvnor, but you’ll pick up the tab anyways”.

UK City of Culchies…sorry Culture

CONGRATUVERYMUCHWELLDONEHEY to Stroke City – living proof that several hundreds years of fighting, bickering, sieges, riots, and crimes against language and fashion can have an endgame after all.

We raise a glass to the Maiden City, and wish each and every resident the very best as they get down to preparations as the City of Culture 2013.

And we’ve figured out where the several hundred jobs that are to emerge are to come from: employing translators to help clarify what residents of Stroke City are saying when commenting on each and every aspect of what culture means on the banks of the Foyle.