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Belfast Holylands students unaware of dangerous game they play

By Malachi O'Doherty

Published 18/03/2016

Revellers in the Holylands on St Patrick's day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Revellers in the Holylands on St Patrick's day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
PACEMAKER BELFAST 17/03/2016 A Police Presence in the Hollands area of Belfast, Celebrating Saint Patricks day.One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Police were attacked with bottles in Agincourt Avenue as a crowd of about 300 people gathered in the area. The disturbances lasted for over two hours, ending at about 04:30 GMT. Police said they went to the area after a crowd was reported to be blocking the road and throwing missiles at homes and cars. Vehicles parked along the street were damaged during the trouble. One police officer said some people in the crowd had been singing "pro-IRA songs". Picture Matt Bohill Pacemaker
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
PACEMAKER BELFAST 17/03/2016 A Police Presence in the Hollands area of Belfast, Celebrating Saint Patricks day.One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Police were attacked with bottles in Agincourt Avenue as a crowd of about 300 people gathered in the area. The disturbances lasted for over two hours, ending at about 04:30 GMT. Police said they went to the area after a crowd was reported to be blocking the road and throwing missiles at homes and cars. Vehicles parked along the street were damaged during the trouble. One police officer said some people in the crowd had been singing "pro-IRA songs". Picture Matt Bohill Pacemaker
PACEMAKER BELFAST 17/03/2016 A Police Presence in the Hollands area of Belfast, Celebrating Saint Patricks day.One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Police were attacked with bottles in Agincourt Avenue as a crowd of about 300 people gathered in the area. The disturbances lasted for over two hours, ending at about 04:30 GMT. Police said they went to the area after a crowd was reported to be blocking the road and throwing missiles at homes and cars. Vehicles parked along the street were damaged during the trouble. One police officer said some people in the crowd had been singing "pro-IRA songs". Picture Matt Bohill Pacemaker
PACEMAKER BELFAST 17/03/2016 A Police Presence in the Hollands area of Belfast, Celebrating Saint Patricks day.One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Police were attacked with bottles in Agincourt Avenue as a crowd of about 300 people gathered in the area. The disturbances lasted for over two hours, ending at about 04:30 GMT. Police said they went to the area after a crowd was reported to be blocking the road and throwing missiles at homes and cars. Vehicles parked along the street were damaged during the trouble. One police officer said some people in the crowd had been singing "pro-IRA songs". Picture Matt Bohill Pacemaker
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast , UK - March 17, Pictured is The scenes in the Holylands on St Patricks day on March 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph )
A naked man is pictured wearing a Tricolour in the Holylands. Picture: BBC reporter Claire Graham @JournoClaire
Clean up at the Holylands area of Belfast on Thursday Morning, One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Photo Pacemaker Press
Around 300 people gathered in the Holylands. March 2016. Picture: BBC
People in the Holylands celebrating Saint Patricks day.One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Picture Matt Bohill Pacemaker
People in the Holylands celebrating Saint Patricks day.One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Picture Matt Bohill Pacemaker
The morning after the night before. People in the Holylands celebrating Saint Patricks day.One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Picture Matt Bohill Pacemaker
The morning after the night before. People in the Holylands celebrating Saint Patricks day.One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Picture Matt Bohill Pacemaker 17/03/2016
The morning after the night before. People in the Holylands celebrating Saint Patricks day.One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Picture Matt Bohill Pacemaker
Clean up at the Holylands area of Belfast on Thursday Morning, One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Photo Pacemaker Press
The situation was brought under control at around 4.30am. March 2016. Picture: BBC

When is a riot not a riot? The rowdyism in the Holylands by students and their friends is widely discussed in the media and social media as something different from the rioting that was part of the Troubles. And indeed it is.

It is not orchestrated and it is not focused on any political demand. The students just want to enjoy themselves.

Their sheer inability to grasp that they are a menace to their neighbours and that the police have a legitimate need to control them is simply just a mark of their immaturity and their ignorance.

It can probably be safely assumed that they do not really want to fight the police - that they would rather they stayed away and let them rampage merrily about the streets of south Belfast.

But does that mean that this whole ugly business has no place in the story of sectarianism and violence?

Some who clearly do not think so are the loyalists who phoned the Nolan Show yesterday morning.

Their gripe is that when loyalists party around their bonfires in July, they are damned in the media as both sectarian and stupid.

Let a loyalist make the case that a bit of drunken roistering in the street, with flags and chanting, is part of his culture, and there will be plenty of commentators quick to ask what kind of culture that is and what entitles it to respect.

From their perspective, hordes of young nationalists dressed in green, waving tricolours, shouting support for the IRA and chucking bottles at the police is at least on a par with rowdy loyalist celebration.

St Patrick's Day and the Eleventh Night have evolved together into ethnic chest-beating carnivals of a similar type. Yet they are not seen that way.

A naked man is pictured wearing a Tricolour in the Holylands. Picture: BBC reporter Claire Graham @JournoClaire
A naked man is pictured wearing a Tricolour in the Holylands. Picture: BBC reporter Claire Graham @JournoClaire
Clean up at the Holylands area of Belfast on Thursday Morning, One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Photo Pacemaker Press
Around 300 people gathered in the Holylands. March 2016. Picture: BBC
People in the Holylands celebrating Saint Patricks day.One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Picture Matt Bohill Pacemaker
People in the Holylands celebrating Saint Patricks day.One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Picture Matt Bohill Pacemaker
The morning after the night before. People in the Holylands celebrating Saint Patricks day.One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Picture Matt Bohill Pacemaker
The morning after the night before. People in the Holylands celebrating Saint Patricks day.One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Picture Matt Bohill Pacemaker 17/03/2016
The morning after the night before. People in the Holylands celebrating Saint Patricks day.One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Picture Matt Bohill Pacemaker
Clean up at the Holylands area of Belfast on Thursday Morning, One police officer has been injured and three people have been arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast. Photo Pacemaker Press
The situation was brought under control at around 4.30am. March 2016. Picture: BBC

The violence in the Holylands was classed by some as "recreational rioting", treated as a kind of high jinks that just went a little too far. But are they missing the obvious?

Some of the students, who were interviewed in the streets yesterday, made the same comparison with the Eleventh Night themselves.

Like the loyalists, they argued that they get more criticism than the other.

That's familiar. They are learning the art of whataboutery.

These students don't look like battle-hardened rioters. They are naive and playful, but they are playing a dangerous game.

Bringing huge numbers onto the streets and getting drunk and confronting the police creates the circumstances in which violence can escalate and people can get badly hurt and worse.

And, as for them not being political; of course not. They haven't any serious thoughts about anything, by the looks of them.

But this is their way of saying that they are Irish and they are now part of a row with loyalists who believe that they are being spared the sort of derision that is piled on them.

Expect the loud behaviour of these silly students to rebound for months now through a hundred media discussions on parades, flags, bonfires and sectarian antics in public spaces.

And expect them not even to understand why.

Belfast Telegraph

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