Well...its that time of year again when I'm torn between wanting desperately for some sunny, rain-free weather and wanting it to lash out of the heavens to keep the 'recreational rioters' off the streets. We've now had four nights rioting, attempted shooting of police, attempt to burn the Dublin-Belfast train and while I can't say I'm a fan of the Orange Order and their insistance on walking down areas they're not welcome or wanted (the ostensible reason for the rioting and protest by nationalists) neither do I support the wanton violence that we've seen here (mostly by young men, but there are reports of kids under 10). It seems things have 'kicked off' in part due to the concerted and organised efforts of republican dissident groups such as erigi who for example formed the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective which effectively ousted the original Ardoyne Community group from protesting against the Tour of the North Orange Parade. Even Sinn Fein has criticised GARC as a 'self-styled and non-elected' i.e. they represent competition for them.
On a related point I cycled into work on Monday - the 'Twelfth' as its known here, the main day for the Orange marches and met about four of the them on my 14 mile trip from Bangor to the University - no issues there. But I went to get lunch round the corner from my office in Botanic Avenue - those from norn iron will know - quite an experience...Two drunken young men out of their heads singing sectarian songs (could not make them out they were that drunk but something along the lines of "If you're....you're a taig"), groups of people squatting around drinker export larger and blue WKD, general air of menace about the place. Two PSNI landrovers cruised about, one with a touching (and large) sign which read 'Alcohol may be confiscated'...decisive policing!
Went home late ...mistake, Botanic a sea of druken men and women with the policce trying calmly to contain them, had to pass people blocking the road on Donegall pass, then the stand off at Short Strand where on the other side had to wade through crowds of people - drunk of course- and hoping they would not hear my accent. Welcome to Norn Iron!