The PSNI is clear that last night’s riots on Castlereagh Street, East Belfast, were not linked to sectarian paramilitary activity. Rather, this was a ‘spontaneous demonstration’ against the police.
As I wrote last week, gangs on both sides of the Ulster divide have been targeting the police in recent months; and they rely on exploiting current economic hardship and ancient sectarian divisions to further their criminal ends. The continued violence is a test of Stormont’s ability to govern without the close supervision from Westminster. It’ll be interesting to see how the authorities, and Peter Robinson and Martin McGuiness in particular, respond in the coming weeks, recognising that this violence does not signify a return to ‘The Troubles’ is an encouraging start.