Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 June 2015

Why Matt Baggott must not buckle under pressure

The chief constable will continue to hold the line in north Belfast because the future of his policiing project depends on it, says Brian Rowan

Published 15/07/2013 | 01:30

An injured officer is helped away on Friday night
An injured officer is helped away on Friday night
Riots kick off at Woodvale as the parades are not allowed to pass Ardoyne. A man on top of a police landrover gets blown off by the water cannon. DAVID FITZGERALD/PACEMAKER PRESS
A petrol bomb hits riot police after it was thrown by loyalist rioters in the Woodvale area of north Belfast
A petrol bomb burns on the ground in the Woodvale area of north Belfast
Loyalists protesting in the Woodvale area of north Belfast
Loyalists protesting in the Woodvale area of north Belfast
Loyalists protesting in the Woodvale area of north Belfast
Loyalists protesting in the Woodvale area of north Belfast
Loyalists protesting in the Woodvale area of north Belfast
Loyalists protesting in the Woodvale area of north Belfast
Loyalists protesting in the Woodvale area of north Belfast
Loyalists protesting in the Woodvale area of north Belfast
Loyalists protesting in the Woodvale area of north Belfast
Loyalists protesting in the Woodvale area of north Belfast
Loyalists protesting in the Woodvale area of north Belfast
A burnt car sits on the O'Neill Road in Newtownabbey
Loyalists protesting in the Woodvale area of North Belfast on Sunday. The protest follows two nights of disturbances in North Belfast after police enforced a ban on an Orange Order march on Friday. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Loyalists protesting in the Woodvale area of North Belfast on Sunday. The protest follows two nights of disturbances in North Belfast after police enforced a ban on an Orange Order march on Friday. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Loyalists protesting in the Woodvale area of North Belfast on Sunday. The protest follows two nights of disturbances in North Belfast after police enforced a ban on an Orange Order march on Friday. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Loyalists protesting in the Woodvale area of North Belfast on Sunday. The protest follows two nights of disturbances in North Belfast after police enforced a ban on an Orange Order march on Friday. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Loyalists protesting in the Woodvale area of North Belfast on Sunday. The protest follows two nights of disturbances in North Belfast after police enforced a ban on an Orange Order march on Friday. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Loyalists confront police 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: Julien Behal/PA Wire
Loyalists confront police 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: Julien Behal/PA Wire
Press Eye - Belfast - Sunday 14th July 2013 Loyalists peacefully protesting in the Woodvale area of North Belfast this evening. The protest follows 2 nights of disturbances in North Belfast after police enforced a ban on an Orange Order march on Friday The marching season in Northern Ireland is a period of events from April to August, with the highpoint on 12 July when Orangemen march to commemorate William of Orange's victory over the Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland in 1690. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Loyalists confront police 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: Julien Behal/PA Wire
Press Eye - Belfast - Sunday 14th July 2013 Loyalists protesting in the Woodvale area of North Belfast this evening. The protest follows 2 nights of disturbances in North Belfast after police enforced a ban on an Orange Order march on Friday The marching season in Northern Ireland is a period of events from April to August, with the highpoint on 12 July when Orangemen march to commemorate William of Orange's victory over the Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland in 1690. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Loyalists hurled bricks and other missiles at police during violence clashes on the Twelfth of July.
PSNI aerial footage of Woodvale riot on Twelfth of July
PSNI arial footage of Woodvale riot on twelth of July
13/7/13 PACEMAKER PRESS BELFAST. A loyalist protestor sits on the road as nearby heavily armed riot squad PSNI officers stand firm as serious trouble broke out this evening in the Woodvale road area near Ardoyne. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
13/7/13 PACEMAKER PRESS BELFAST. Heavily armed riot squad PSNI officers stand firm as serious trouble broke out this evening in the Woodvale road area near Ardoyne. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
13/7/13 PACEMAKER PRESS BELFAST. Heavily armed riot squad PSNI officers stand firm as serious trouble broke out this evening in the Woodvale road area near Ardoyne. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
13/7/13 PACEMAKER PRESS BELFAST. Heavily armed riot squad PSNI officers stand firm as serious trouble broke out this evening in the Woodvale road area near Ardoyne. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
13/7/13 PACEMAKER PRESS BELFAST. Heavily armed riot squad PSNI officers stand firm as serious trouble broke out this evening in the Woodvale road area near Ardoyne. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
13/7/13 PACEMAKER PRESS BELFAST. Heavily armed riot squad PSNI officers stand firm as serious trouble broke out this evening in the Woodvale road area near Ardoyne. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
Violence broke out in the Woodvale area of Belfast after the Parades Commission ruled that marchers were not allowed to return along the part of the Crumlin Road at Ardoyne shops that separates nationalist and loyalist communities
Loyalists confronted police in North Belfast on the Twelfth of July, following the decision to bar Orangemen from walking through Ardoyne
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds was injured in violence that followed an Orange Order parade. Police say Mr Dodds was knocked unconscious and taken away in an ambulance. Earlier he had appealed for calm after trouble broke out when the Orange parade was stopped on the Woodvale Road and was hit with a water cannon. Picture: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
Heavily armed riot squad PSNI officers faced serious trouble last night as they enforced the Parades Commission's ruling that Orange bandsmen could not return past the nationalist Ardoyne area after the annual 12th of July parade. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker
Press Eye - Belfast - Friday 12th July 2013 Loyalist bandsmen and Orangemen pictured in the Woodvale area of west belfast with officers from the PSNI after the Parades Commission ruled that marchers are not allowed to return along the part of the Crumlin Road, at Ardoyne shops, that separates nationalist and loyalist communities. PSNI help an injured Loyalist on the Woodvale Road Thousands of Orangemen are taking part in the annual Twelfth of July parades across Northern Ireland. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Violence broke out in the Woodvale area of Belfast after the Parades Commission ruled that marchers were not allowed to return along the part of the Crumlin Road at Ardoyne shops that separates nationalist and loyalist communities
Violence broke out in the Woodvale area of Belfast after the Parades Commission ruled that marchers were not allowed to return along the part of the Crumlin Road at Ardoyne shops that separates nationalist and loyalist communities
Heavily armed riot squad PSNI officers faced serious trouble last night as they enforced the Parades Commission's ruling that Orange bandsmen could not return past the nationalist Ardoyne area after the annual 12th of July parade. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker
Heavily armed riot squad PSNI officers faced serious trouble last night as they enforced the Parades Commission's ruling that Orange bandsmen could not return past the nationalist Ardoyne area after the annual 12th of July parade. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker
Loyalist bandsmen and Orangemen pictured in the Woodvale area of west belfast with officers from the PSNI after the Parades Commission ruled that marchers are not allowed to return along the part of the Crumlin Road, at Ardoyne shops, that separates nationalist and loyalist communities.
12.07.13. PICTURE BY DAVID FITZGERALD Riots kick off at Woodvale as the parades are not allowed to pass Ardoyne.
12.07.13. PICTURE BY DAVID FITZGERALD Riots kick off at Woodvale as the parades are not allowed to pass Ardoyne.
Loyalists clash with police on Woodvale Road as they are stopped from parading any further.
Loyalists clash with police on Woodvale Road as they are stopped from parading any further. A loyalist uses a captured police baton on police lines.
12.07.13. PICTURE BY DAVID FITZGERALD Riots kick off at Woodvale as the parades are not allowed to pass Ardoyne.
12.07.13. PICTURE BY DAVID FITZGERALD Riots kick off at Woodvale as the parades are not allowed to pass Ardoyne.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
12th July celebrations take place across Northern Ireland to commemorate the 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne by King William of Orange. Loyal Orange Lodges of Ireland parade with marching bands to celebrate the date and the Protestant faith. The return parade past the Nationalist Ardoyne shops in north Belfast is blocked by a parades commission. An injured officer is taken away as Loyalist clash with police on Woodvale Road as they are stopped from parading any further.
12th July celebrations take place across Northern Ireland to commemorate the 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne by King William of Orange. Loyal Orange Lodges of Ireland parade with marching bands to celebrate the date and the Protestant faith. The return parade past the Nationalist Ardoyne shops in north Belfast is blocked by a parades commission. Loyalist clash with police on Woodvale Road as they are stopped from parading any further.
12th July celebrations take place across Northern Ireland to commemorate the 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne by King William of Orange. Loyal Orange Lodges of Ireland parade with marching bands to celebrate the date and the Protestant faith. The return parade past the Nationalist Ardoyne shops in north Belfast is blocked by a parades commission. Loyalist clash with police on Woodvale Road as they are stopped from parading any further.
12th July celebrations take place across Northern Ireland to commemorate the 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne by King William of Orange. Loyal Orange Lodges of Ireland parade with marching bands to celebrate the date and the Protestant faith. The return parade past the Nationalist Ardoyne shops in north Belfast is blocked by a parades commission. A Loyalist at police lines on Woodvale Road where the parade was stopped from going any further.
12th July celebrations take place across Northern Ireland to commemorate the 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne by King William of Orange. Loyal Orange Lodges of Ireland parade with marching bands to celebrate the date and the Protestant faith. The return parade past the Nationalist Ardoyne shops in north Belfast is blocked by a parades commission. Loyalist clash with police on Woodvale Road as they are stopped from parading any further.
12th July celebrations take place across Northern Ireland to commemorate the 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne by King William of Orange. Loyal Orange Lodges of Ireland parade with marching bands to celebrate the date and the Protestant faith. The return parade past the Nationalist Ardoyne shops in north Belfast is blocked by a parades commission. Loyalist clash with police on Woodvale Road as they are stopped from parading any further.
12th July celebrations take place across Northern Ireland to commemorate the 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne by King William of Orange. Loyal Orange Lodges of Ireland parade with marching bands to celebrate the date and the Protestant faith. The return parade past the Nationalist Ardoyne shops in north Belfast is blocked by a parades commission. An injured officer is taken away as Loyalist clash with police on Woodvale Road as they are stopped from parading any further.
12th July celebrations take place across Northern Ireland to commemorate the 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne by King William of Orange. Loyal Orange Lodges of Ireland parade with marching bands to celebrate the date and the Protestant faith. The return parade past the Nationalist Ardoyne shops in north Belfast is blocked by a parades commission. Loyalist clash with police on Woodvale Road as they are stopped from parading any further.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
12th July celebrations take place across Northern Ireland to commemorate the 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne by King William of Orange. Loyal Orange Lodges of Ireland parade with marching bands to celebrate the date and the Protestant faith. The return parade past the Nationalist Ardoyne shops in north Belfast is blocked by a parades commission. Loyalist clash with police on Woodvale Road as they are stopped from parading any further.
12th July celebrations take place across Northern Ireland to commemorate the 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne by King William of Orange. Loyal Orange Lodges of Ireland parade with marching bands to celebrate the date and the Protestant faith. The return parade past the Nationalist Ardoyne shops in north Belfast is blocked by a parades commission. A Loyalist at police lines on Woodvale Road where the parade was stopped from going any further.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
A man is injured and taken away in a police landrover at the junction of Fedrick street and York Road in Belfast as tensions run hight between loyalists and Police on the 12th evening. PICTURE STEVEN MCAULEY/KEVIN MCAULEY MCAULEY PHOTOGRAPHY MULTIMEDIA
A man is injured and taken away in a police landrover at the junction of Fedrick street and York Road in Belfast as tensions run hight between loyalists and Police on the 12th evening. PICTURE STEVEN MCAULEY/KEVIN MCAULEY MCAULEY PHOTOGRAPHY MULTIMEDIA
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. . At least two police officers have been injured. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/07/2013 Water cannon have been used in north Belfast after bricks and bottles were thrown in a sustained attack on police Land Rovers in the Woodvale area of Belfast . The attack came as police enforced a Parades Commission ruling. . At least two police officers have been injured. The ruling stops Orange Order lodges from walking on a stretch of road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
Loyalist bandsmen and Orangemen pictured in the Woodvale area of west belfast with officers from the PSNI after the Parades Commission ruled that marchers are not allowed to return along the part of the Crumlin Road, at Ardoyne shops, that separates nationalist and loyalist communities.
Loyalist bandsmen and Orangemen pictured in the Woodvale area of west belfast with officers from the PSNI after the Parades Commission ruled that marchers are not allowed to return along the part of the Crumlin Road, at Ardoyne shops, that separates nationalist and loyalist communities.
Loyalist bandsmen and Orangemen pictured in the Woodvale area of west belfast with officers from the PSNI after the Parades Commission ruled that marchers are not allowed to return along the part of the Crumlin Road, at Ardoyne shops, that separates nationalist and loyalist communities.
Loyalist bandsmen and Orangemen pictured in the Woodvale area of west belfast with officers from the PSNI after the Parades Commission ruled that marchers are not allowed to return along the part of the Crumlin Road, at Ardoyne shops, that separates nationalist and loyalist communities.
A policeman is injured in disturbances with loyalists.
A policeman is injured in disturbances with loyalists.
A policeman is injured in disturbances with loyalists.
Loyalists clash with police on Woodvale Road as they are stopped from parading any further. A loyalist uses a captured police baton on police lines.
12.07.13. PICTURE BY DAVID FITZGERALD Riots kick off at Woodvale as the parades are not allowed to pass Ardoyne.
A total of 32 police officers were injured in violence in Belfast on Friday
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

That row of Land Rovers stretched across the Woodvale Road since the Twelfth is no ordinary police line. It is a statement of so much more: the row is a message that the Chief Constable, the PSNI and the reinforcements from elsewhere in the UK are going to stand their ground and do what has been determined by the Parades Commission.

So, this is a big test; not just on this one march decision, but for the new policing project. Matt Baggott is not going to force a change to that decision to block the return Twelfth feeder parade from passing Ardoyne.

He is not going to go to Secretary of State Theresa Villiers to ask her to intervene, something that would first require him to make a dire security assessment.

So, it doesn't matter whether there is two nights of rioting, or 20 nights of rioting. A decision has been made, and it is going to be policed. This is not 1996, or 1997, when previous chief constables Sir Hugh Annesley and Sir Ronnie Flanagan, became part of the parading controversy over decisions they took at Drumcree.

Marching decision-making now rests with the Parades Commission. The PSNI role is simple – to police the ruling, whether it is a decision to allow a march to proceed, or to block it.

That the latter was the decision was something not publicly announced until late last Tuesday evening, but the likelihood of that ruling was known days before then. And, in the background, there was a commentary about consequences, talk of an 'Armageddon' scenario.

The interventions were clearly designed to force a re-think – interventions from those who always know best and know better.

There was a clear purpose: that the chief constable and secretary of state would buckle and then the marching decision would be reversed. "Not a chance," was Matt Baggott's response when I spoke to him early on the Twelfth morning in north Belfast. "That's why the mutual aid is here," he said, referring to the hundreds of additional officers he has brought in from other UK forces.

And this move also is about protecting the progress made so far in the peace process; keeping the military option out of the picture, choosing police and not soldiers as support.

Watching in recent days, I have seen that those mutual aid officers have not been some bit-part player. They have been in the difficult, tight spots; some have been hurt and others have been completely thrown by the complexities of the marching stage.

As a PSNI officer was lectured on Friday by irate Orangemen after a woman with a child in a pram were escorted across the road, I listened as an academic explained the unwritten rule of not breaking the ranks of the parade without permission.

He was talking to one of the many police visitors at the junction of Clifton Street, Carrick Hill, North Queen Street and Donegall Street; explaining what, anywhere else, might appear to be nonsense.

As he spoke, the officer admitted that the nuances of these parading procedures would go straight over his head. The mutual aid officers know how to police, how to hold lines, but how could they possibly begin to understand the fine detail peculiarities of Northern Ireland?

On Friday and Saturday, I watched the police lines being pelted at Woodvale, and the calls for peaceful protest and civil disobedience disappear beneath a blizzard of bricks, bottles, golf balls and petrol-bombs.

I watched this scene become an angry, violent confrontation and watched young people being left on this riotous frontline, left with the consequences of their actions.

Arrests, charges – maybe prison; all of it happening at a police line that wasn't going to be broken or breached, and all of it happening as others walked away.

This is not a re-run of the Drumcree crisis of the 1990s; it is not a redrawing of those scenes of mass protest that are remembered from that period.

There are not thousands of soldiers on the streets in support of policing.

Up to this point, there is no indication that there is a mood for widespread and sustained violence.

The past few days have been about a short stretch of road in Belfast where that police line has been put in place; a line that has held and will continue to hold.

Because it has to.

Hundreds upon hundreds approached it on Friday night from the loyalist side, and, not far away, a significant crowd had gathered at Ardoyne.

So the consequences of the line being broken are obvious. It can't, for many reasons; community safety, protecting the new policing project, not buckling to the old ways and old pressures.

But for how long will the police have to stand on that road and at the other flashpoints within that small, unshared area of north Belfast?

For as long as they have to is the answer to that question, but their presence says something else.

It is a reminder of political and community failure; that the police are there because we have an unfinished peace and unanswered questions.

The PSNI and the mutual aid officers are holding the line and their nerve.

But the political noise is all too familiar – disagreement, blame, somebody else's fault and no answers to old problems.

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