Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Human price of keeping the peace

This week's series of Belfast Telegraph articles featuring police riot officers brings a timely human dimension to an important group of people rendered anonymous by their standard gear when on duty.

In their special helmets and body gear, and sheltering behind their large shields, is easy to forget that the riot police who are required to expose themselves to such dangers are human like the rest of us, and are somebody's loved ones.

In today's paper we hear from a female officer who talks about being scared at having to stand on the front line in the midst of rioting, and also of the distress of her mother who worries that her daughter may be caught up in such unrest.

Despite the dangers, the riot police officers have no option but to carry out their duty, and they have done so bravely during the confrontations of the marching season, and on other occasions.

They ask for no special favours, and they know that male and female colleagues are equally vulnerable to the actions of those who express their hatred in such acts of aggression, where no mercy is shown. Those who set about attacking a police officer are hardly likely, in the heat of battle, to think about the consequences of attacking another human being, but they should do so.

However the graphic details revealed in our series of articles this week may cause some people to draw back and to think twice about their actions.

Apart from breaking the law and taking on the forces of law and order, they are also risking the life of a human being in uniform, as well as putting themselves in great danger.

This is not only a matter for trouble-makers to consider.

Our politicians and members of the general public ought to take greater note of the human cost of keeping the peace in Northern Ireland in troubled times.

The police should not be taken for granted as the last line of defence for a society which still needs to learn much about living together peacefully.

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