Belfast Telegraph

Cowards behind rioting and guns have to be confronted

By Colum Eastwood

The scenes that we have witnessed in Derry over the last week speak of a Derry in the past, not Derry in 2018.

The people of Derry, both past and present, have worked too hard and we have come too far to be dragged back to a time when people were scared to leave their homes and sleep in their own beds because of the threat of violence. This is only damaging the community and people across the city are furious.

Put simply, we know that guns and riots do not work.

Instead, what this does is send out a terrible signal about our city and drives investment out of Derry - investment that is so desperately wanted and so desperately needed.

During a weekend that should be an opportunity to show off our city and attract tourists from far and wide, we are instead faced with people who are too scared to come for fear of violence.

This is not the Derry I know and love.

The people who are orchestrating this are in the minority.

Dissident republicans do not speak for the people of Derry and have absolutely no legitimacy for their actions.

This is not the way to achieve a united Ireland. This is not being a true republican.

Instead, what they are accomplishing is an entire community living in fear. Nothing has ever been achieved by attacking police officers who are doing their job to keep people safe or hijacking vans and setting them alight.

They have no thought for anyone or anything, other than their small-minded agenda, an agenda which still remains unclear of its aims and objectives.

What we are witnessing, is tough guys who stand on the sidelines while they send children to throw petrol bombs and fire guns at the police.

They are letting children fight their battle for them, a battle that does not need to be fought.

Using children, in some cases, as young as eight years old, to destroy their own community is nothing short of cowardly.

These children and young people are vulnerable and could easily end up injured or arrested.

This not only destroys the lives of the people they are targeting, but the children who are being used to carry out these attacks.

As I have said, I am willing to talk to those who are choosing to orchestrate this.

I have made this plea several times and no-one has been willing to come forward from that movement and get round the table.

This shows an unwillingness on their part to communicate what their aims are and what they could possibly hope to achieve by terrorising the community.

What is clear, is that we have to take on and confront the ideals of these people and speak with a united voice - not in our name.

Colum Eastwood is the leader of the SDLP and MLA for Foyle

Belfast Telegraph

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