Outrageous violence needs a firm policing response, and full support for officers, which does not necessarily mean support for its leadership

News Letter editorial of Thursday April 8 2021:

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 8:47 am
Updated Thursday, 8th April 2021, 9:17 am
News Letter editorial

On Tuesday trouble that has flared in loyalist areas over the last week seemed to be dying down.

But last evening saw some of the worst trouble, including a bus being burnt in Belfast’s Shankill.

Such outrageous violence must be met with a firm PSNI response and a determined effort to convict culprits. Would-be rioters who are untroubled by conscience have already been warned not to damage their own futures with criminal records,a message they should still heed.

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But full support for the police officers on the ground is quite separate from support for the PSNI leadership. The latter is never guaranteed. Top police officers like top politicians hold positions of such influence and consequence in society that it is appropriate that they can lose their post at once.

Today Stormont will be recalled from its Easter recess to discuss the recent violence. It is a topic worthy of discussion.

But while there should be unanimity of opposition to riots, we cannot pretend that there will be agreement over the wider matters of key concern, such as the culture of appeasement of republicans, long facilitated by Irish officials and insufficiently checked by UK ones.

The former secretary of state Shaun Woodward said yesterday on radio that Naomi Long’s support for Simon Byrne should be the basis for collective executive agreement.

This is nonsense. His former Labour Party leader Tony Blair would never have had to fall into line with a junior minister. Yet the grotesque system of mandatory coalition that Mr Blair installed in Stormont means that everyone has to be in power at all times, including a party, Sinn Fein, that wants Northern Ireland to fail. Thus a first minister can at times be powerless.

It is fair to say that unionists should not put all the blame for the current crisis on Mr Byrne. Why for example did prosecutors not let the Bobby Storey mass breach be tested in court?

And London has yet done little to ensure there can be no repeat of SF collapsing Stormont for three years until it got reward of an Irish language act — something unionists agreed.

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Alistair Bushe

Editor