Teenage rioters are driven by the ‘excitement of disorder’

A Belfast GP believes many youths rioting over the Union Flag are not interested in politics

The Belfast flag riots have made headlines across the world, forced a ministerial statement in the House of Commons and raised fears about a return of violent sectarianism.

But many of the Protestant youths involved in the protests against restrictions on the flying of the Union Flag have little political knowledge and are driven by the “visceral excitement” of disorder, according to a widely-respected community leader.

Dr John Kyle, a local GP and politician, told The Independent today that many of the teenagers “are enjoying themselves and having a bit of a buzz. They’re out for a bit of sport.”

They experience “the exhilaration that comes to young men”, by confronting police, he said. Many come from “chaotic” homes with problems including excessive alcohol consumption, addiction and high use of anti-depressants and pain-killers.

Some local schools are excellent but others are “very poor, woeful,” he added. “It’s not like the worst New York ghettos but there is significant social deprivation.” Dr Kyle is one of the very few professionals to voluntarily involve himself in the formidable problems of the loyalist inner city. Twenty years as a local GP, witnessing conditions and attitudes at first hand, have given him insight into the mind of loyalist east Belfast.

A committed Christian, he is also one of the leaders of the Progressive Unionist party, which has links to illegal loyalist groupings. He has worked for years to attempt to persuade them away from paramilitarism and into constructive politics.

“The vast majority of people here are annoyed about the flag coming down from the city hall,” he said. “Most of east Belfast thinks it is ridiculous, they think it is wrong, I’ve rarely seen such anger. The majority are protesting peacefully and don’t want to see violence, but there are a number of young people who are quite happy to get involved should violence start.”  But he adds: “The rioting is different to the protests – when the rioting kicks off you get a sort of natural visceral excitement.”

They are mostly teenagers, the majority aged from about 12 years of age to around 22. Most are locals though some, alerted by social media, travel from miles away to join in. “I’ve been there trying to exert a positive influence,” he said “Local churches have been trying to set up diversionary activities but the kids haven’t been interested. They said, “Ach, why would we go and do that when we can go out and riot?’

“I remonstrate with the kids saying cut this out, but it hasn’t worked. A lot of very young people are caught up in it. You’re talking about people who are not politically informed or interested.”

Today Theresa Villiers, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, warned the Commons that the riots showed that “sectarian divisions remain deeply entrenched.” She added: “These people are not defending our national flag, they are dishonouring our national flag and our country.”

The restrictions on flying the Union Flag are just the latest in a series of blows to the loyalist culture which include issues such as the curbing of Protestant parading.

He went on: “Loyalists feel that they’re the losers, that they’ve had to give up something and they’ve got nothing in return. That feeds a sense of grievance.”

That belief is part of a toxic mix along with economic and social problems. There is still a paramilitary presence, alongside drug dealers and anti-social behaviour.

And Dr Kyle’s outlook is bleak.  “Even if you achieve a solution to the rioting you’ll still have this grumbling resentment and anger. People really think they’ve been walked over. That’s a boil that needs to be lanced.”

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
news

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
News
London's New Year's Eve fireworks event is going to be ticketed this year for the first time at £10 a head
news

Revellers will have to pay to see New Year's Eve fireworks in London

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Life and Style
tech

Try putting that one on your Christmas list
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS2 Teacher

£105 - £120 per day + Expenses: Randstad Education Maidstone: Randstad Educat...

German & French Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are curren...

Experienced Cover Supervisors Needed

£55 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education have cover s...

**** Calling All NQT's ****

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Are you a Newly Qualified Teac...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week