Two comments from the Nolan show minutes ago: “Police struggled to keep rival factions apart” and “Did you feel vulnerable during all this?” The latter to a pensioner who had stones and petrol bombs aimed at his house.
I’ll move discreetly past the inanity of that “vulnerable” question and on to the heart of the matter - “Police struggled to keep rival factions apart”. I don’t know how the programme will develop but that notion of two rioting mobs with the cops as piggy-in-the-middle really does have to be nailed. And nailed it was by Alex Maskey on UTV last night. When questioned about stone-throwing from the Short Strand, he replied grimly “If I lived in the Short Strand and my home was being attacked, I’d be out throwing stones too”. I tweeted that and had, among overwhelmingly positive response, one tweet which gleefully suggested that this meant Alasdair MacDonald would have a safe Westminster seat “for ever”. Dear tweeting person, perhaps you underestimate the intelligence of the South Belfast voters; besides, there are other ways of looking at the world than how you can keep your rear in a Westminster seat. Like how long you can go on living in your home.
Which brings me to Jim Wilson, a Protestant community worker, I think. He did two good things at least in the last four or five days. The first was confronting the immense intellect that is Willie Frazer at a rally in front of Belfast City Hall. Why that is a good thing should be self-evident to even the slowest of us. The second is Wilson's concession last night that loyalists had attacked Catholic homes and that he disowned such people entirely. Wilson was out on the ground, as I understand it, trying to keep the peace. Full marks for that and your statement - maith thú, Jim.
Is there a difference between that and making statements up in Stormont, when you yourself were the instigator of these street scenes? You betcha. Except unionist politicians take their courage in their hands and tell their constituents that things are changed now - not just the flag, not just power-sharing in Stormont, but everything. And that nationalists/republicans making gains on a number of fronts is not “them ‘uns getting everything”, it’s about them ‘uns finally beginning to get their fair share after almost one hundred years of deprivation. Only when the leadership of the unionist community explains that justice and equality are concepts which everyone should be keen to see put in place will ugly, sectarian street violence such as last night wither on its own twisted branch.