Northern Ireland Peace Process: Discussion
Thursday, 13 October 2011 Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement Debate ..Dail Eireann. Comhchoiste um Fhorfheidhmiu Aoine an Cheasta...Chairman/Cathaoirleach Dominic Hannigan,TD/FD
Mr. Jackie McDonald: An important point needs to be made about nine and ten year olds. They are the children of children. Their parents are in their early twenties. Many of the parents are single parents who got together for the wrong reasons, perhaps through escapism or in a drink-induced relationship. In many cases the father has left, the mother is in a flat on her own and is finding it very difficult to cope. The children do not get the tender loving care, TLC, they are entitled to. That is a big problem for them. They are left to go out and learn the habits of the street. We need to look after young single parents. We need crèche facilities to allow mothers to go back to school or into employment and get some sort of identity in the community.
There are many dangers to the peace process. Parades is one of them, but the major problem for our peace process, and the biggest danger I see, is the young people. They are getting involved in riots and they think that is part of the conflict. I have criticised the PSNI openly and I have talked to them about this. A few months ago in east Belfast the PSNI sat in Land Rovers and let 14 year olds, with gloved fists and wearing training shoes, climb over armour-plated Land Rovers, punch and kick them and hit them with wheelie bins. The police sat there and did absolutely nothing. They have since made a few arrests and it will take a year to bring the cases to court. I have told the PSNI they need snatch squads. They have to get out and arrest rioters there and then so they know they cannot get away with it.
The police plead health and safety. If a 14 year old has climbed on a Land Rover, the police cannot move the Land Rover in case he falls off it. They are lined up like tins of beans. They should just leave the Land Rovers there, go and have their tea and then when they are finished, they can come back and take them away. As Sean Murray said, it is a matter for the people in the area, whether it is the Garvaghy Road or the Ormeau Road. It is not for the Orange Order to bring people from Belfast or from anywhere else to try to force the issue. The people in that area should be left to deal with the problem and let them sit down together to talk it through. The same applies to the issue of the peace wall. The only people who can sort out the peace walls are the people who live on either side of them. I was in Alexandra Park the other day and it was good to see so many people there. It was a very important moment and it shows the way forward. The walls cannot be taken down yet but gates could certainly be put in them so that communities on either side could become comfortable and familiar with each other.
There are so many problems and so many dangers to the peace process. The biggest issue must be to give our young people an identity. At the moment there is no consequence for doing wrong. They have plenty of opportunities to show how bad they can be and we need to give them the opportunities to show how good they can be.
To be continued