Belfast Telegraph

A new generation at risk: young, angry ... and back on the streets

By Eamonn McCann

Fighting With Wire, General Fiasco, LaFaro, Paddy Nash and the Happy Enchiladas. How would they measure up in Ardoyne?

Not to mention Futurechaser, Here Comes the Landed Gentry, Fight Like Apes, The Jane Bradfords. Every one a gem, but which tradition do they belong to?

There’ll be 45 other outfits at Glasgowbury this Saturday, too: The Q, Little Hooks, Triggerman, Wonder Villains . . .

And solo acts galore: Keith Harkin, Junior Johnston, Paul Casey, Joe Echo. The one I know best knows only one definition for interdenominational intercourse.

And then there’s the uncategorisable Duke Special, fresh from a sensational set on Tory Island.

Where were we? Glasgowbury. Or will be this coming Saturday, for the 10th annual Small but Massive festival of the best of local music, which is to say the best anywhere.

The one form of culture in which we are globally predominant is rooted in the traditions of Africa, the Appalachians, New Orleans, Liverpool 8, as well as of the streets where we live.

Glasgowbury happens at Eagles Rock, nestling in a ripple of the rolling Sperrins just above fabled Draperstown, where you’ll learn more about the coming generation than from a month of morning newspapers demonising the youth of working-class areas.

That’s to say you’ll learn as long as you are not an embedded commentator on chuckle terms with the communal politicians you are supposedly keeping track of, or a reformed radical who has swopped his gun for a good suit and now reckons hoodies are scum.

It could be the sight of some of these guys preening themselves is another cause of the trouble on our streets. More than flesh and blood can bear, mucky urchins might murmur as they scrabble for ammo.

Strap-lines along the top of page after page of coverage of Ardoyne proclaiming ‘Dissident republican violence . . . Dissident republican violence . . . Dissident republican violence’ might generate a level of rage in the breasts of peaceful people such as to propel them into the streets with a saucepan to clout a journalist.

Would the same approach be permissible regarding the young Muslims who hurled bottles and stones at the police and members of the English Defence League in Birmingham in September last year? ‘al Qaida violence . . . al Qaida violence . . . al Qaida violence.’ Beats giving a reporter time to research the story, I suppose.

It seems permissible these days, in some local newspapers, to fill whole pages with a gallery of pictures of youngsters with an invitation to readers to call the police hotline and dob in any they recognise.

In one instance last week, some of the pictures were of boys clearly under 16. If brought to court, the same newspaper wouldn’t be able to name them. But they are fair game while still in season during the competitive drive to stoke outrage.

No point saying anything on the imbecilic yowling for the parents of children caught rioting to be taken to court. And presumably jailed if they don’t apologise and promise in future to hogtie their teenagers to a radiator at nightfall.

Much of the rioting on television is a form of self-harm. Half the young people in the working-class areas most affected by the Troubles are in bits. So are many of the parents the law-and-order mob want dealt with.

Research by the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People found a significant correlation between rates of suicide and “trauma due to the conflict, to paramilitary threats and to forced exiling and economic marginalisation and social exclusion . . .’’.

The children we pledge to cherish when discussing youth suicide and the children we want beaten off the streets when they riot are the same children.

The children whose achievements we extol and hold up as our bright hope for the future — they might be the same children, too, on different days, in different contexts.

This isn’t the whole story. But any story which doesn’t include it tells us nothing worth knowing.

If you want to see how wonderfully some have triumphed over the legacy laid on them by the generation now demanding that they be pacified by any means necessary, come to Glasgowbury on Saturday.

Feel the spark of creativity crackling in the mountain air. Ponder the passionate communication of identities that have nothing to do either with communal difference or desire to overcome communal difference. That sort of thing just doesn’t feature.

You want a read on what’s really going down, lend an ear to In Case Of Fire, Pocket Billiards, Furlo, Not Square.

Come to Glasgowbury and get real.

Belfast Telegraph

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