Leading article: Belfast riots are price of poor politics

 

Share

Riots on the streets of Belfast look alarmingly like a return to the bad old days. Indeed, the sight of an Orange band marching in circles and playing a sectarian tune in front of a Catholic church may prompt claims that nothing has changed. Not so.

The symmetry that outsiders tend to see between Northern Ireland's Protestant and Catholic halves is superficial. The Protestant loyalist working-class community of the past was one where boys left school at 16 and moved straight into well-paid jobs in the shipyards or heavy engineering companies from which Catholics were excluded. Today, the jobs have gone but the culture, which placed a low premium on education, remains.

By contrast, the Catholic working class put much greater emphasis on schooling. With the legislating away of institutional anti-Catholic discrimination over the past decades, the Catholic community has had a lift distinctly absent in working-class loyalist areas, whose paramilitaries were behind this week's riots.

Politics may have delivered a peace in which the economy, investment and tourism have been normalised, but there has been no big peace dividend in terms of new jobs for either working-class community. Marches and parades – and disputes about them – are the tribal badges which attach to this divide. And where politics has absolutely failed is in attempts to replace the much-criticised Parades Commission which places conditions on republican and loyalist marches. Politicians on both sides came up with an alternative in 2010 but it was shelved after opposition from the Orange Order. The politicians gave up too easily, and these riots are the price.

One positive development has been that Presbyterian and Anglican Church leaders, who have previously tacitly supported the Orange Order, have this week roundly condemned it. The loyalist unemployed need jobs. But the Orange Order also needs to know that all sides – from Martin McGuinness to the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church – are intent on moving in a very different direction, leaving its members to keep marching round in circles.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Digital Content Manager,Leicester

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Charter Selection: Leading Nationwide and important...

SAP FICO Trainer

Negotiable: Progressive Recruitment: I am currently seeking a SAP FICO Trainer...

Commercial IP Solicitor - Oxford

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: OXFORDSHIRE - COMMERCIAL IP /IT - We ...

Sales Director, Edgeware, Middlesex

£55 - £70K OTE £120k Plus Car: Charter Selection: Major multi-million pound la...

Day In a Page

lowers, candles and other tributes in front of the Netherlands Embassy in memory of the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17  

To punish Putin for the MH17 disaster we must boycott Russia 2018

Jack Gilbert
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor