There was a heated exchange between, well, let’s just say Alex Maskey seemed to get heated up at the thought of what was, yet again, happening at Short Strand/Pitt Park interface last night. To the consternation of many he expressed the thought that if he lived in Short Strand he’d be throwing back some of the stones that came in too.
There are many interfaces around the city, but few have as torrid a time as this one over the years. And whatever the story of the day, by and large, it’s usually two way traffic. What’s common is the desparation in the voices of those whose homes are attacked over and over, year after year.
It’s still not a 100% clear what went wrong with the police operation, other than someone amongst the protesters had the bright idea that it would be great for people from other parts of the city to come east and show their solidarity. The PSNI having left the Albert Bridge open, the protesters streamed that way.
The result was a low level street fight that wound up with the inevitable broken windows.
Families at the lower end of the Albertbridge Road have lived with such instability for generations, although I’d venture a guess that the heavy landscaping and rebuilding programme in the 70s and 80s have taken a lot of the daily sting out of the full bore conflict.
Most of what goes on down there is low level, attritional and minor skirmishes amongst kids. What rather glibly gets called ‘recreational rioting’ at times of heightened media attention, has become an uncontested part of the cultural life of area, especially for those facing the roads or walls.
Perhaps it is that the area sits at a sort of bottleneck on several major arterial roads into the city centre. Tackling the problem perennially faced by local residents in the longer term, will take a great more than just tamping down enraged political tempers of flag protesters this time.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty