Loyalists in Belfast have continued rioting into a second week now following a call to arms by Loyalist paramilitaries across the North of Ireland. In scenes unseen since the 2012 flag protests, Loyalists scattered across the north have been calling on young people as cannon fodder for their sectarian war.
The trouble started just under two weeks ago when Loyalists said that the PSNI’s refusal to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over the funeral of previous Provisional IRA man Bobby Storey, this against the backdrop of what has been a monumental political failure over the Irish Sea Border for Unionism, has brought Loyalists in their hundreds onto the streets cities across the north making the claim this is their stand for Ulster.
Last night we seen the worst rioting when loyalists stole and burnt a public bus setting it alight whilst the driver and passengers struggled to get off. Later that evening Loyalists stole a car and rammed it into one of the many gates on the peace walls that still stand in Belfast.
Bus drivers in Belfast today held a protest at Belfast city hall, stating that they will be putting a curfew on loyalist areas after 6pm until they get assurances from community leaders that it is safe for their drivers to navigate through the area without putting the drivers life at risk.
Loyalists managed to break the locks and force open the gates, at the same time the PSNI had made the decision to withdraw from the area, leaving hundreds of Nationalist and Loyalist teenagers on either side of the gate to fend each other off.
As the night continued, petrol bombs were thrown into the nationalist community and close the gates, Loyalist paramilitaries decided to have a show of strength firing weapons into the air.
Criticisms were drawn from Nationalists as they called into question the contrast of tactics used by the PSNI in dealing with the Loyalists stating that the PSNI were quick to violently attack Nationalists over smaller matters but were happy to withdraw from Loyalist interfaces, leaving it to local republican groups such as the Irish Republican Socialist party who were attempting to turn young Nationalists away from the Interface and away from sectarian fighting.
In the lead up to last night and to this weekend coming, Loyalists have been calling on young people to “earn their stripes” calling on them to come to the streets and orchestrate planned riots in various parts of the North via messaging services and broadcasts on social media purely driven by poor sectarian leadership both in the militant and political sense with no plans to stop in the future.
The leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster added to tensions during the middle of the violence despite being critical of the rioters’ actions, Foster chose to end her tweet with “it only serves to take the focus from the real law breakers in Sinn Fein”.
Fosters comments on the matter only add to the sectarian tensions that exist within the Loyalist community whilst continuing to call for the resignation of the Chief Constable despite loyalists injuring 41 police officers.
Many commentators online were quick to place the blame on the fallout from Brexit to champion their Anti Brexit narratives despite seeming largely clueless about the whole situation at hand and the history of Loyalist violence in Ireland.
Over the last number of weeks we have seen a clear lack of leadership from the Unionist leaders, who have been waiting on their festering problem to be challenged at street level by loyalist paramilitaries which only furthers their cause. Some feel that this may lead to a reintroduction of military patrols around the North which favors the Unionist position over the Nationalists.
Many fear that if the violence continues and escalates at the rate that it has been, loyalists could be on their way to repeating history in the militant action and collusion which led to their notoriety.
The failure of leadership within loyalist communities for years has now led to criminal drug gangs declaring war on working class communities across the north.