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Politicians must choose words carefully

Stephen Oreilly

THE rioting which took place in some loyalist areas of Derry and Belfast at the weekend has left a substantial number of police officers injured and has led to the arrest of some suspected of being involved in the trouble. It was striking that of those arrested as a consequence of Friday night's disturbances in the Sandy Row area, the majority were in their teens, one a 13-year-old.

There has been much speculation about what caused the outbreak of violence with the Brexit 'sea border' and the fallout from the inquiry into last year's funeral for prominent Republican Bobby Storey which drew thousands onto the streets of west Belfast at a time when strict pandemic measures were in place.

But it is important for us all to understand that these alleged factors are not a reason for carrying out potentially lethal attacks on the police or for the theft and burning of cars. Nothing excuses such actions. The danger posed by using petrol bombs in particular were made clear with the disturbing pictures of one rioter briefly enveloped in flames.

After a week which saw unionists call for the resignation of the PSNI chief constable, yesterday DUP MP Gregory Campbell called for an end to the violence, including the trouble which has broken out for four nights in the Waterside area of Derry. The MP said that "Rioting and injuring rank and file officers will only result in young people being criminalised".

While Mr Campbell pointed the finger of blame at the funeral of Mr Storey, an earlier statement by Gerry Kelly laid the blame at the feet of unionist politicians saying it was "a direct consequence of the actions of political unionism".

Speaking about the Belfast violence a PSNI spokesman was in no doubt that officers were targets of an "orchestrated attack on police". The officer correctly pointed out that "We are living in unprecedented times, dealing with a global pandemic, no-one needs the added pressure of disorder in their community."

Mr Campbell is correct when he says that continuing to attack the police would only result in further injuries and the criminalising of even more people, many of them very young. Neither of these outcomes is good for anybody. It is clear that politicians must be more careful in their choice of words because the wrong words can very often lead to the scenes witnessed in this past week.

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