Loyalist mum reveals despair at ‘recreational rioting’ fuelled by lockdown and lack of leadership - ‘kids are getting roped into this and there is no other direction for them’

A loyalist mum has told of her concern that youngsters are getting dragged into ‘recreational rioting’ out of “lack of leadership and lockdown”.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 2:57 pm

Geraldine Kerr, 32 from Westlands in Belfast said the situation for the youth in her area has been exacerbated by recent sectarian attacks on homes and youths.

She said: “As a loyalist myself I don’t feel loyalism is represented very well. I don’t feel there is anyone I can turn to if I was angry about something.”

She added: “Quite recently there have been lots of sectarian attacks on our homes and on our kids out in the street.

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“Obviously with everything going in at the minute things tend to overheat.

“The sectarian incidents seem to be happening more now than ever and it is worrying for our kids having to grow up in this.

“There is only 300-odd houses here (in Westlands) but there are young nationalists coming up here from all directions in their hundreds and that is no exaggeration.

“We have had community workers out to make sure our kids are behaving and to make sure there is not stuff going on that shouldn’t be. But I am worried that my children or ones I know would get involved in these protests.

General view of Nationalist youths clashing with Loyalists at the Lanark Way peaceline on the Springfield Road in west Belfast

“My oldest is at secondary school and would be at school with boys from the areas that are rioting at the minute so he is hearing about it but does not really know what it is about.

“But I think kids are getting roped into this and there is no other direction for them.”

She added that getting involved in trouble “is almost recreational and something to do particularly with the whole lockdown”.

She added: “If this keeps going on it is going to lead them down a path to nowhere.”

A Night of violence on both sides of an interface in the loyalist Shankill and nationalist Springfield Road areas on Wednesday evening

Ms Kerr said the knew of parents who have been on the ground at Lanark Way “to bring their sons home”.

“It is very worrying for parents who go to Lanark Way to find their children. One woman said what the police would give their son in the back of that landrover will be nothing to what she would give him here and now.”

Meanwhile a Community worker from nearby Tigers Bay in north Belfast said he has been working with “kids as young as 11-years who have been involved in the protests”.

“My aim is to show kids who are 10-14-years that there is a better way of life for them,” he said.

PSNI riot squad officers try to keep Nationalist and Loyalists apart at Lanark Way interface in Belfast during a riot on Wednesday night.

“The thing is they don’t understand politics but their parents do and they pick that up.”

He added that “sectarianism was bad in the area at the minute” coupled with a “serious drugs issue”.

“I am also seeing a real lack of parental control for many reasons. But it is having a detrimental effect on children.

“There have been too many issues going on - before all this we were able to get the kids away on buses. Then the Protocol kicked in, Brexit and more Covid restrictions, then the schools closed and right down to the community centre closing. It was too much.

“Everything has failed these youngsters from parents, to education and the system.”

He added that young people in Tigers Bay were aware of “increasing sectarian attacks” which he said all “added into the mix”.

PUL (Protestant, Unionist Loyalist) posters calling for postponement of protests as a mark of respect to the Royal Family following the death of the Duke Of Edinburgh.

“There are a lot of issues in the community - deprivation, housing issues, money issues, lack of funding and then Covid.

“When all this happens this is what you end up with.

“What happened has set back cross community in the area. “

Inspector Graham from the Neighbourhood Policing Team said: “While we are still investigating recent incidents of disorder in the Tigers Bay area, police have not received any reports regarding recent incidents of people or property being attacked.

“Officers from the Neighbourhood Policing Teams continue to engage with local representatives, community workers and residents and I would appeal to anyone with information about any incidents to make a report to police.”

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