Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Another day ... and another crisis to negotiate

Blowback:  Loyalist  on police landrover hit by water cannon in Woodvale
Blowback: Loyalist on police landrover hit by water cannon in Woodvale
Police have been pelted with bricks, bottles, heavy masonry and petrol bombs during five consecutive nights of disorder in Belfast
Police have been pelted with bricks, bottles, heavy masonry and petrol bombs during five consecutive nights of disorder in Belfast
Police officer is injured in north Belfast, after an Orange July 12  parade was stopped from passing a Nationalist area. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 12, 2013. See PA story ULSTER Parades. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Police officer is injured in north Belfast, after an Orange July 12 parade was stopped from passing a Nationalist area. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 12, 2013. See PA story ULSTER Parades. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire

It will be a return to that riotous scene of the Twelfth, another day when a part of Belfast will march on eggshells. And the question this time is the same as the last time.

What will happen when the march reaches the police front line at Woodvale Parade?

A senior loyalist speaking to this newspaper on the condition of anonymity said there were two key questions.

How the police react to the Orange Order when they come up to the line. And how people 'police' those who are there for trouble.

"I don't know if the UDA and UVF will take that on," he said in answer to his own second question.

The non-attributable conversation takes you closer to what is really happening behind the scenes, and confirms the absence of a coherent strategy.

"The Orange is torn apart," the source suggested. They need to decide how long they are going to stand, or are they going to walk away," he added.

In the stalemate of recent days, some realities are starting to emerge: "They are not going to get back up the road in terms of the Parades Commission," the source continued.

So why then, within a week of the Twelfth, is there to be another march to that police front line on what will be another day of high temperatures giving heat to an angry mood?

There is muddle where there should be clear strategy, and the "inherent unpredictability" of today means the PSNI will once again police in big numbers.

At Woodvale, that means on a similar scale to the Twelfth.

"It's a big, big policing operation," a senior officer commented. "We will have a very, very significant number of resources out there."

"This is the Northern Ireland public purse," that senior police officer commented.

"For every week this goes on it's another classroom or another hospital ward."

Whatever is happening on the streets, however bad, this is not on the scale of the 1990s and Drumcree. "There's no mass anger out there," a Shankill loyalist commented.

Creating a stand-off is easy. The bigger challenge is finding a way out.

PUP leader Billy Hutchinson said talking shouldn't be about "horse-trading" but about "resolving issues".

That's the task of the Haass initiative, but before then Belfast has to find its way through another dangerous and high temperature marching day.

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