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  • Writer's pictureFriends of Sinn Féin USA

The Reason for Loyalist Riots

Chris Donnelly hits the nail on the head. It’s down one thing, A failure of leadership. Instead of challenging and leading, unionist political leaders heighten tension, pander to prejudice and promote falsehoods. Please read, share and tell us what you think

This from Chris in the Irish News this week. 👇

“We live in an age of fake news, but facts stubbornly persist as a necessary corrective to those more comfortable with myths.

In its centenary year, Northern Ireland remains a place in which Catholics are considerably more likely to be poor than Protestants.

This is a statement of fact as confirmed by the regular collation of a multiple deprivation measure by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

The most recent statistics (2018/19) from the Department of Education show that, in a single year, 883 poor Catholic boys and 543 poor Protestant boys left school without 5 good GCSEs, illustrating how educational underachievement and the troubles that flow from that are not the exclusive preserve of one community.

Relative poverty and dismal educational outcomes are always a factor, as evidenced by sporadic dissident republican-induced street violence in Derry and other pockets of deprivation across nationalist areas of the north, but they are not the main reason for loyalist alienation nor violence today.

Neither is apparent anger at the PSNI's handling of a funeral nine months ago.

The setting for the first outbreak of loyalist violence in recent days was the Sandy Row district in Belfast.

Within a short distance of the rioting in the same loyalist area of the city, a leading loyal order figure in the locality was buried last September in a large funeral which clearly breached the same restrictions.

Two months earlier, large crowds gathered in the same area in breach of the Covid restrictions to celebrate the Twelfth of July.

If Arlene Foster's current stance of righteous indignation over the Bobby Storey funeral had anything at all to do with concerns over public safety and the example set by political figures, then she would have long ago thrown Sammy Wilson out of her party.

Nor is the violence a reaction to additional layers of paperwork requiring to be completed by businesses wanting to keep trade connections open with a post-Brexit Britain.

So what is it all about?

It's about the type of leader who meets and briefs the heads of active, illegal loyalist paramilitaries but who publicly snaps that she won't meet with the PSNI chief constable... before caving due to public pressure.

It's about the type of leader who, amidst developing constitutional discussions, proclaims that she will abandon hearth and home in the event of Irish unity, knowing that such a sentiment will spread alarm amongst her own grassroots.

It's about leaders who made a succession of calls over Brexit that were spectacularly ill-judged, callous and ultimately self-defeating, demonstrating their utter disregard for the impact it would have upon everyone living on this island in the process.

It's about leaders who take the easy option and give succour to a facile and wholly false narrative about culture to defend contentious parades and utterly destructive practices of burning wood, tyres and sofas alongside flags and emblems of the Other instead of educating people about the need to abandon aspects of traditions that are simply not worth retaining.

It's about leaders who, 23 years later, continue to refuse to embrace the Good Friday Agreement primarily because they are fundamentally opposed to its very premise of equality and parity of esteem for all in Northern Ireland.

It's about leaders who continue to act as if they represent a majority and not simply a minority voice in this society, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the need for nuance and appreciation of consensus amidst the rapidly changing demographic profile of our shared home.

It's about a political leadership choosing fury, fear and antagonism every time instead of hope, reason and co-operation.

The role of leaders includes challenging, educating and exposing absurd claims, destructive practices and prejudice-based assertions amongst one's own supporters, not merely parroting them.

The violence is what happens when leaders fail to do what must be done.”

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