Kids are enjoying the riots too much to stop, says cleric
A church minister has warned that young people in east Belfast will not turn away from recreational rioting because they are having too much fun.
Rev Johnston Lambe, minister at Mountpottinger Presbyterian Church, said youngsters he had worked with had refused offers of free paint-balling or go-karting trips because they do not want to miss out on riots this weekend.
Rev Lambe also said he saw little prospect of the unrest stopping imminently.
He and colleagues are working directly with youngsters at risk to try and get them off the streets and avoid long-term damage. He is particularly worried about the situation on the streets tonight and tomorrow.
“We have been offered funding to distract them to take them out of the areas. We couldn’t even get them to agree to that. Generally they would be breaking your neck to go paint-balling or go-karting but they are not interested in that now. They are just locked into a mindset at the moment,” he said.
“They are basically finding the demonstrations and riots fun.”
“We have a Youth Forum trying to encourage them to move out but why would you leave an activity that you are enjoying? In many cases they are afraid of missing something. As a result there is no interest in being taken out of the area, whatever you offer them.”
Rev Lambe (56) was raised in Rathcoole, a large, mainly loyalist estate in Newtownabbey, during the Troubles. It gives him an instinctive grasp of the dangers young people face if they get caught up in violence.
“We are working with kids from fourth form upwards, from age 14 to the early 20s,” he explained
He painted a bleak picture of youngsters on the lookout for excitement and feeling their community had lost out in the peace process.
“They seem to follow the crowd and it is a thrill for them. Imagine that, at 15 years of age, you are running down the road and the police are chasing you but they can’t catch you and you think you are getting away with it,” Rev Lambe said.
“That may seem like an enjoyable evening, but under these special courts those who are caught are getting custodial sentences.
“They will have criminal records that will affect them their whole lives.”