'Theme park' rioting raises old fears
If the Disney corporation decided to open a theme park for 'recreational rioting' they would put it in the Ardoyne district of Belfast.
That is what a priest from Ardoyne suggested in the aftermath of the latest violence by young people in north Belfast.
The remarks by Fr Gary Donegan were tongue-in-cheek, but they signify the international damage being done to Northern Ireland's reputation as a model for conflict resolution.
The phrase 'recreational rioting' was made in Belfast, to describe the traditional outbreak of street disturbances once the summer school holidays begin.
After a third consecutive night of trouble, Fr Donegan said: "I pulled stones out of the hands of children.
"It was a bit like a Euro Disney theme park for rioting. It was ludicrous."
Most of the young rioters were simply bored kids looking for some excitement in an inner city area where they complain of having nothing else to do.
Children as young as eight years old have been involved in the violence.Pictures
For them it is a chance to stay out late and play with the 'big boys'. The older rioters welcome them, especially when they can push them to the frontline as a human shield. Or as one senior police officer put it, "sandbags made of young children".
Waiting in the shadows are the ringleaders - dissident republicans using street violence as the latest vehicle for their attempts to destroy the peace process.
In areas like Ardoyne, which is traditionally a Sinn Fein stronghold, they are trying to win the battle for the hearts and minds of the next generation of young republicans. They are having some success, but it is limited.
When the pictures go round the world of petrol-bombs flying through the air and police officers engulfed in fire, it is easy to miss the fact that the violence is only happening in one small corner of Belfast.
For 99% of people in Northern Ireland, the closest they get to witnessing a riot is when it is shown on the evening TV news.
End Quote Fr Gary Donegan
It was a bit like a Euro Disney theme park for rioting”
The peace process has solid foundations.
Whisper it softly, but the notoriously fragile power-sharing Stormont executive is unlikely to collapse any time soon.
The problem is that, by definition, a process needs to keep moving forward and there has been little progress in recent years in bringing Catholics/nationalists/republicans and Protestants/unionists/loyalists closer together.Berlin
Although the rioting in north Belfast has been republicans attacking the police, the reason the police have to patrol places like Ardoyne is that it is an interface where the two traditions clash, especially during the Protestant marching season.
There are at least 40 purpose-built high walls in Belfast keeping the communities apart. Berlin got rid of its wall 20 years ago, but in parts of Northern Ireland some people say they could not live without them.
It is not clear exactly what Stormont's politicians are going to do to make those people feel safer.
The immediate priority is to ensure that streets of Belfast are free from violence. The three days of trouble have raised old fears.
As one veteran politician put it, this is 'Northern Ireland's annual trip to the edge'.