Leading article

No excuse for Derry violence

The serious disturbances which have rapidly escalated in Derry over recent days, including the repeated sectarian targeting of a Protestant district and the firing of shots at police officers, are deeply alarming.

Community relations in the city have been placed under enormous strain and there are real fears that serious injury or even deaths could follow if the violence is not brought to an end.

There have been reports that anti-social behaviour and open air drinking among nationalist youths during the warm weather developed swiftly into the disgraceful attacks on the Fountain estate, the only Protestant enclave on Derry's west bank.

It is clear that dissident republican elements who have been decisively rejected by mainstream nationalism then cynically took the opportunity to open fire on the increased police patrols in the city centre and Bogside districts.

The major progress which has been made on parading and other issues in Derry over recent years needs to be carefully protected during the present upheaval.

It was therefore highly significant that ordinary residents from the Bogside walked to the Fountain in a show of solidarity with their Protestant neighbours earlier this week.

The city's two bishops, Rt Rev Ken Good from the Church of Ireland and Dr Donal McKeown from the Catholic Church, also deserve huge credit for visiting the interface and releasing a firmly expressed joint statement condemning all the recent trouble.

There was another positive intervention yesterday when the leaders of the six main Stormont parties came together to appeal for calm and reject all forms of confrontation.

However, the sequence of events has demonstrated that a relatively small number of extremists are capable of instigating further rioting.

It is striking that petrol bombs have been regularly thrown in Derry by children in their early teens, or even younger, and it is essential that parents do not abdicate their responsibilities in this regard.

If the upheaval which has been witnessed in Derry since the weekend is not brought under control, it is almost inevitable that lives will be lost.

It all represents an appalling prospect, and it can be said with certainty that the vast majority of Derry residents want to see normality return to their city without delay.

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