Editor's Viewpoint: Politics will always defeat the violence
After one of the worst weekends of disturbances since the protests began over the Union flag issue, First Minister Peter Robinson has re-asserted the primacy of politics over violence.
In a strongly-worded article in today's Belfast Telegraph, Mr Robinson states that the demonstrations long since became counter-productive and are deeply damaging to Northern Ireland.
In a blunt message to the loyalists he said that in some parts of Belfast the cause which prompted the protests has all but been lost amid the violence and disorder, and that the only cause they are advancing is that of republicans.
In a particularly key-note passage he pointed out that in the past it was republicans who claimed that Northern Ireland was "a failed political entity".
He asked pointedly: "Why on earth would any sensible unionist seek to prove them right through violence, disorder and attacks on the police?"
Unfortunately, however, there are protesters who are not at all sensible, and it is disturbing to watch even young children becoming embroiled in "recreational violence".
The First Minister aptly summed up the public mood by noting that "people's anger at the flag decision has been obscured by their outrage at attacks on the police and the devastation of many businesses".
He also reinforced the point that in the United Kingdom, change can only come through the ballot box and not through violence on the streets.
He raised hopes by confirming that politicians are seeking to channel the current concerns through the political process, and he indicated that the fledging Unionist Forum has made a good start.
The First Minister was also right to stress that long-term solutions will require the involvement of people from right across the community.
This is a leadership statement that is meant to point the way forward, and to chart a way out of the current mess which we find ourselves in. It is up to everyone to work hard in order to make these ideas and aspirations a sustainable reality. Violence of any kind is misguided not only because it is wrong, but also because it simply creates more problems.