It’s fair to say that “Brand NI” has suffered over the past few weeks. A small group of people (numbering in the hundreds) are causing civil unrest in their own section of the city. The security services, unwilling to create an escalation, seem to be more interested in containment rather than ending the trouble. I think they’re waiting for a dialogue to end the rioting rather than just arresting any agitator.
The trouble has pushed people to the extremes of their politics. Ignoring that the Alliance forged an agreement from Sinn Fein and the SDLP to fly the Union Flag over Belfast City Hall (on designated days). Thinking about that, the significance of that, should have impact on reasonable individuals. While this trouble was inflamed by the DUP and UUP (and by the leaflets distributed by the DUP hardliners), it’s clear that they no longer have any control over it.
But this is damaging us, locally and internationally.
We will have difficulty applying reason to this trouble. It’s not possible to reason with the unreasonable. And the rioters, allegedly aged between 14 and 16 years old, are most definitely unreasonable. They didn’t live through the Troubles, they are children of the Peace Process. And they are suffering; under-achievement in education being a significant reason. And the underachievement is because of a community mentality that values peer respect and holds education in contempt.
To get them to stop, you have to make them a better offer. That’s why Digital Circle is working to create more open access computing clubs (similar to Coder Dojo). Will that solve the issue? No, of course not. But this is a question of options and exits. How do you provide a better offer to a 14 year old who can see the money and power offered by doing what the crime lords of East Belfast demand?