Leading article

Loyalists dishonour Duke of Edinburgh's memory

It is hugely ironic that some loyalist groups claimed they were temporarily scaling down their violent street protests as a mark of respect to the Duke of Edinburgh, after his death at the age of 99.

The patriarch of the British royal family had displayed a massive commitment to the internationally respected awards which bear his name and are dedicated to participation in self improvement schemes and providing voluntary services to all sections of society.

Nothing could be further from the actions of the thugs who have destroyed property in their own areas and injured dozens of police officers in pursuit of confused aims which they have had enormous difficulty in articulating.

The famously outspoken Duke would have been appalled to hear his memory invoked by individuals who chose to express themselves by throwing bricks, burning buses and attacking adjoining Catholic districts.

Some nationalists have foolishly responded to the provocation, resulting in a period of prolonged disturbances across Belfast and elsewhere which could easily have resulted in serious injuries or even deaths.

The level of tension has eased to at least some extent over recent days but there are still fears that forthcoming marches may be used as an opportunity to stretch police resources and launch additional onslaughts.

If bands on any side of the divide ignore the legally binding rulings of the Parades Commission, they need to be held to account swiftly and have sanctions imposed on their activities for the rest of the summer.

It is also essential that suspects who are charged with serious criminal offences during the present upheaval are brought to court immediately rather than being told to attend a hearing some weeks later.

Everyone is still entitled to the presumption of innocence, but an early appearance before a magistrate, who can make a ruling on a bail application which may well depend on the level of tension in particular neighbourhoods, sends out a firm message.

There will be concern that the confrontations have resulted in the firing of a number of plastic bullets, which can have grave consequences, although police have generally conducted themselves with professionalism and restraint.

The people who riot in order to make a political point, whether they are from a loyalist or a nationalist background, need to know that they will be brought to justice and face appropriate penalties, including jail sentences when appropriate.

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