Leading article

Fragile peace must be protected

While there will be a sense of relief that the rioting and disorder that erupted last week has not continued over recent days, there are fears that this will be merely a brief respite.

After disgraceful scenes were witnessed at the interface at Lanark Way and with tensions higher than they have been for several years, people were braced for further serious trouble at the weekend amid planned protests marking the 23rd anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

However, the death of the Duke of Edinburgh on Friday led to protests being called off as a mark of respect although that did not prevent further disturbances taking place in Tiger's Bay in north Belfast and in Coleraine.

Prominent loyalist spokesman Moore Holmes has told the Irish News there is no mood for protests within the unionist community at this time and the focus is on mourning Prince Philip. But he believes there will be a resumption of protests at some stage although it is not clear when.

There can be no possible justification for people coming onto the streets to cause disruption or create mayhem. Any concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol or any other issues must be dealt with through completely peaceful and democratic means.

This is a time for leadership and honest conversations, particularly from unionist representatives, who must be direct and realistic about where we are.

It is not helpful for DUP chair Lord Morrow to claim that the current situation for loyalism was 'of equal seriousness' to the Ulster Workers' Council strike in 1974 and the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Those were tumultuous times which no one wants to see repeated but they bear no resemblance to present circumstances.

What we need to see is calm and constructive leadership, and that should include the full engagement of Boris Johnson who cannot be a 'casual observer' to the violence, according to Labour shadow secretary of state Louise Haigh.

Church leaders have reminded politicians from Ireland, Britain and the EU of their responsibilities to 'peace, reconciliation and the protection of the most vulnerable.'

The Irish Church Leaders group said our 'fragile peace' should be treated with care and called on political leaders to come together 'with a genuine desire to find solutions and accommodations'.

This is a timely intervention which should cause all those in positions of influence to pause and reflect on what needs to be done to protect our 'fragile peace'.

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Leading article