Leading article

No excuse for attacks on cars or police

IT IS doubtful if many, indeed any, of those involved in violence in the Markets area of Belfast yesterday were alive at the time internment without trial was introduced by the British government in a disastrous bid to end the then embryonic 'troubles' in 1971.

For years after the event the date of August 9 was marked in many nationalist areas with bonfires in the early hours of the morning, meant to remember the day when hundreds of people were carted off to detention centres and on to internment.

While internment was still in operation the date was often marked with widespread rioting. As a result people died, were injured and many were arrested. As the years went by there was a growing feeling that these events had more to do with anti-social behaviour than anything else.

Eventually locally-organised festivals were held as a way of taking young people away from trouble. Those various events eventually overtook the diminishing number of bonfires and trouble around the anniversary of internment became less widespread.

However the practice of building and lighting bonfires has not completely died out, despite the apparent wishes of most communities that they should disappear. There have been occasions in the past few years when police and local authorities were requested by some residents, through elected representatives, to move bonfire material, occasionally causing confrontation.

But yesterday's events in the Markets area are extremely disappointing. Young people attacked cars parked in the area, apparently because they were angry about the removal of bonfire material. It is believed that people working in Belfast primarily use this area to park.

There is no excuse for such behaviour. Random attacks on the cars of strangers is reprehensible, as are attacks on members of the police. All this type of behaviour does is inconvenience workers, local residents and the taxpayers who eventually pick up the tab for clearing up the mess before and after bonfires.

If such behaviour continues inevitably some of those involved will be arrested and brought before the courts. We have seen enough people jailed down through the decades, whether without trial or through due process.

These people should not put themselves in danger of acquiring a criminal record whether because of some misguided attempt at 'celebrating' an infamous date in our recent history or because the authorities are going to spoil their party.

There are many completely peaceful activities organised at this time of the year, activities which do not involved scavenging wood and other materials, often toxic, setting them on fire and leaving the taxpayer to pick up the bill for cleaning the mess.

 

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