It's (Not so) Good to be Back...


Well we're back in the headlines again... Three nights of rioting and Belfast is up there vying with Spanish world cup celebrations for top story...

This is uniformly regarded across the media as "not a good thing" (especially when a policewoman is left fighting for her life) and many have been commenting on the cost to the Northern Irish economy. Not only the cost of policing (on top of cleaning up bonfires) but also through the damage done to Northern Ireland's international image which will undoubtedly impact on tourism (terrorism tours are a monority interest), and inward investment.

However, do you really think that those out rioting give a damn about the economic impact on Northern Ireland? A number of years ago whilst driving to observe the contentious Whiterock Parade on the Springfield Road, Reg Empey came on the radio to appeal to both communities in the Springfield/Woodvale/Ardoyne areas to keep calm for the sake of our shared economic future. But most of those rioting have never benefitted directly from any economic investment and aren't educationally geared up to do so... Some are wee nyaffs the age of my younger son following in the footsteps of their older siblings, and in some cases fathers, having a great time chucking stuff at the police. The older ones are the products of a system that originally churned out young men fit only for the yard or mills... or latterly for the dole. Why should they get qualifications when no-one in their family history ever had to? Their ability to kick up merry hell has previously been turned on by political puppet-masters to suit their agenda... and when they are no more use they have been discarded and condemned. Both Unionist and Republican politicians have done the same... some more overt than others...

This is not an exercise in apologetics for rioters... far from it. There is NO excuse for such behaviour... And I for one would like to see all of them lifted by the police at the first possible opportunity... and in my less gracious moments I wouldn't care how many bumps and bruises the wee dears got when being apprehended. But it certainly won't be stopped by pompous statements about the economic implications. When they don't place any value on the life of a policewoman, why would they place any value on economic investment that never seems to find its way into their pockets?

Condemnation from a distance is cheap... Be it from a pulpit, newsprint or the Stephen Nolan Show. Pouring money into these areas isn't the answer either. It requires the investment of time, energy and imagination into these communities and lives. Not rewarding bad behaviour but trying to find ways of supporting what is positive in such communities... Growing the good and weeding out the bad. Making the good news headlines...
ps. For a prettier picture of Belfast, try out Belfast City Council's recent photgraphic competition. And for a funnier take on our fair city, pop over to Prof. Billy McWilliams' prescient piece from the 6th July.



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