Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Twelfth riots must be a lesson learned

People around the world were appalled at the violence directed at police officers in the Ardoyne area of Belfast on the Twelfth.

Television pictures showed officers bravely holding the line while a large number of thugs fired a variety of missiles at them, ranging from stones to petrol bombs. In one shocking incident, a large concrete block was dropped on the head of a women officer as she lay on the ground. Thankfully she is recovering from her injuries, but she could so easily have been killed or left disabled.

Police tactics on the day were questioned. Many observers felt that officers had absorbed too much punishment and should have been more proactive in dealing with the rioters. However, the PSNI's tactics have been unanimously supported by the Policing Board. That is not just vindication for the force's commanders, but also an indication of the vastly changed political climate in Northern Ireland. In the past nationalist and republican politicians would not have given their imprimatur to police operations in nationalist areas.

It is encouraging to note that police have arrested 38 people in connection with street disorders around that period. And, given that children as young as eight were involved in the rioting, it is proper that the police in conjunction with social services are taking measures to address that problem. It is scandalous that these young children were allowed by their parents to place themselves in danger. Of course it is impossible to keep children under supervision at all times, but surely when widespread violence engulfs an area, the first reaction of most people would be to ensure their young children were safely out of harm's way.

The Chief Constable says there needs to be a robust approach to dealing with street riots, and he is supported in that view by the Policing Board. Police cannot just be sitting ducks for rioters, but should be able to root out the chief troublemakers as quickly as possible.

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