Belfast Telegraph

Strange happenings on Belfast's streets of rage as men, women and Darth Vader make Halloween go bump in the night

By Lindy McDowell

About a week ago I was walking through Belfast mid-afternoon when I spotted some sort of incident unfolding on the corner of Castle Place and Royal Avenue. Being nosy (a healthy attribute in journalist, I always feel) I sped over to where a number of police vehicles were parked.

A man had been talking to a police officer who was now engaged in attempted crowd control of a young, very gobby boy.

"What's happened here?" I asked the man.

He took a drag on his fag. "Yobs fighting," he summarised wearily.

Presumably by this stage the combatants had been lifted or redirected homewards because, outside of Loudmouth Boy, there was no sign of them.

To sum up then, just another ordinary, everyday example of senseless strain on police resources.

Not to mention an alarming sight to destabilise the tourists.

"Yobs fighting" is not a new thing in Northern Ireland (a very large part of our recent history could be filed under that heading), but it seems to have become an increasingly common, almost casual aspect of everyday street life.

Mobile phone video of a weekend brawling match in Howard Street in Belfast is yet another graphic illustration.

The scenes captured on the phone footage are indeed disgraceful, shocking, deplorable. All those things. But also quite comical. A woman in the vehicle from which the scenes are being filmed can be heard giggling at one point.

Little wonder. It's obviously hard to know what to focus the camera on as the full lunacy of Belfast's zombie apocalypse unfolds.

Grown-ups in fancy dress stagger around clearly out of their scones, swinging fists, feet and Halloween masks. A young blonde woman in a red dress appears to be either thumping a man or attempting bizarre resuscitation. Either way, it's not gentle. In the middle of the road two men are exchanging high kicks while another grapples with his jeans.

One man stumbling around is wearing the ubiquitous Guy Fawkes mask. An alcoholic anonymous.

A young woman taking a tumble appears to have been felled by a man. She's clutching a shoe. Maybe her feet got sore. Maybe she just wanted a weapon to hand.

It's hard to make out some of the background characters, but what looks like a centurion seems to be grappling with Darth Vader. About the only person who appears not to be engaged in hand-to-hand combat is someone dressed - ironically enough - in military camouflage.

In the middle of the road at the lights two men intervene (tentatively, it must be said) to stop a group who are laying into a downed pair on the crossing. One of the protagonists here is a woman with a fluffy, bunny-type tail. Not exactly representative of the non-violent cottontail community, then.

And all this is taking place outside the Michelin-starred Deane's Restaurant which, it goes without saying, has absolutely no connection with the melee.

Where are the police? This is smack in the centre of Belfast close by major hotels and other restaurants. It's not as if it's in some secluded side street.

Aspects of the footage are comical, yes. But that drunken wrestling could also easily have ended in severe injury, real tragedy.

So never mind the policing response, what about those who 'starred' in the footage? Do they feel proud of their behaviour now that they have sobered up to discover they are trending online?

A pack of grown adults causing mayhem on the streets, creating aggravation, endangering their own and other people's safety (not least motorists trying to carve a path through the rumpus) and generally making complete plonkers of themselves.

The video has, as we say, gone viral. Right now 'yobs fighting' also seems to have gone viral in Northern Ireland.

And, yes, the police need to get a grip on this.

But there are also a few idiots in fancy dress who could do with getting a grip on themselves.

Letter shone light on our harmless moths

One of the great founts of wisdom in the Belfast Telegraph, I always think, is the Letters column, which can be inspiringly illuminating and informative. And no better recent example than a plea from a C Shaw calling for compassion towards the humble moth, which he/she maintains is not the clothes-eating monster of common perception.

We have 500 species of large moths that only eat foliage. Of small moths (695), only six "will eat wool, or cotton, but not man-made fabrics, or silk". Do not kill moths, urges C Shaw, they are gentle and harmless. And - who knew? - also quite picky eaters.

Deputy speaker's job much too charitable

In terms of dream jobs, getting paid - handsomely - to be a deputy speaker in an Assembly to which you haven't been elected is way up there.

Sinn Fein's Caitriona Ruane, who has now resigned from her lucrative post, explains that any salary she received she gave to charities. So that makes it all right, then?

These things may be deemed permissible in the public sector, but I can't imagine anyone ever getting away with it in the private sector. Questions would have been asked, believe me. Much, much sooner. Much, much more searching.

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