PSNI must be free to make clear that no-one has ‘right’ to riot

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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Look again at the picture on our front page.

A crowd, with expressions of shouting or grinning, face PSNI officers in riot gear.

An injured officer lies behind the police line, near to the crowd, and another officer comes to help him.

This was all part of the trouble and tensions in Belfast yesterday relating to republican internment bonfires.

For the better part of 20 years, the PSNI has put a heavy focus on human rights compliance in its response to public disorder. Around the time of the transfer from the Royal Ulster Constabulary to Police Service of Northern Ireland in late 2001, there were riots in parts of the Province. Tensions were still high from the Holy Cross protests, when the Protestant minority in the Upper Ardoyne finally lost its patience with republican taunting and low level intimidation.

A significant minority of the overall force was injured in that disorder. Representatives of officers told of protestors coming right up to the police line and dropping breeze blocks on them, and other such tactics.

It seemed that the rights of the officers themselves were secondary to those of the rioters.

The trouble in Belfast was not of those proportions yesterday but in 2012, on July 12, after Orangemen were allowed to return past the neutral Ardoyne shopfronts, but subject to a ludicrous time restriction (with which they complied), dissidents in the Ardoyne were furious and there was some of the worst rioting seen in the Province since the Troubles.

The following year, republican thuggery was rewarded with a full ban on the return march. This was hardly a precedent for peaceful conduct.

The authorities should be ruthless with orchestrated rioters in which the life of security force members, or anyone else, is put at risk, regardless of the community from which the violence originates, so we all can see that no-one has a ‘right’ to riot.