Any hope of a peaceful end to loyalist tensions went up in flames as violence broke out in the Shankill following a protest at a west Belfast interface.
The sight of masked youths being cheered and encouraged by adults as they ran towards the Lanark Way peace line was a depressing indictment of the peace process in parts of Northern Ireland.
The crowds who gathered on both sides of the divide on Wednesday night were mainly young people born long after the end of the Troubles, yet certainly not living in peace.
While their actions are to be condemned, the environment they are growing up in is not one of their making.
The older men directing the violence are those who have lived through the past, yet they stand content to curse a new generation to the same life.
That moving burning bus on the busy Shankill Road could have had lethal consequences.
If the violence continues as we head into the weekend, there is a very real danger of a life being lost. Therefore, there is a responsibility on our political leaders to bring calm to the situation.
As the clear-up started on the Shankill Road, Stormont was meeting for an emergency debate to discuss the violence.
The failure to protect young people from communities that have not felt the benefits of peace should weigh heavily on those politicians’ minds.
Bringing calm to the streets without making the mistakes of the past requires creative thinking.
The veterans of Loyalist Communities Council represent the leaders of the paramilitary groups who have for many years been awarded the funding and patronage of both the British and Irish governments.
They are people who have been welcomed into the halls of power for the sole reason that they are supposed to have influence over the communities they represent.
However, events in Belfast and beyond have shown their influence is on the decline. They barely have a grip on their organisations, never mind the disillusioned and politically disenfranchised younger generation.
Throwing money at paramilitary-linked groups in an effort to buy peace is a failed tactic.
Money that should have changed the lives of the people of loyalist areas for the better, that should have empowered those young people, placed importance on education and given them job prospects for the future.
Instead, much of that funding went to vanity projects for people who seem to have lost their influence when it really matters.
As police investigate the violence of the last week, they should also be mindful that many of the interface protests are being organised by recently set up social media accounts, acting with sinister motive, while the instigators stand well back from the front line, allowing much younger men to risk their future.
We know the reasons for unrest in working-class loyalist communities are multi-faceted and not easily broken down to either the Northern Ireland Protocol or the funeral of Bobby Storey in west Belfast last June.
There is also a depressing social and economic reason for the hopelessness felt by many young men who face a life without opportunity, making them susceptible to exploitation by loyalist paramilitary figures.
There are problems with poverty, educational underachievement, drug addiction, suicide and mental health, with little in the way of future employment prospects.
Throwing money at the same failed projects is the definition of madness, but will our political leaders be brave enough to do something about that?
Will the DUP and UUP accept that attacking the Chief Constable over a Public Prosecution Service decision on the Storey funeral was a mistake?
The summer months were once journalists’ diary date for conflict and violence. We are in very real danger of heading backwards to that time. There is only a brief window of opportunity to turn that around.
Let’s hope the politicians manage to claw it back before it’s too late.