There was more violence on the streets of Belfast last night. The peace between nationalist and unionist communities in Northern Ireland has never seemed as fragile.
What's truly worrying about the past six nights of rioting is the role that the DUP have played in making things worse. First minister Arlene Foster has failed to show the political leadership required of such a sensitive situation. Whatever about the PSNI's decision not to prosecute senior members of Sinn Fein for breaking covid protocols to attend the funeral of Bobby Storey, last night definitely was not the time to wedge Sinn Fein criticism into a tweet condemning violence on the streets of Belfast. Not while sharing literally inflammatory footage of Loyalist youths hijacking a bus and setting it ablaze.
This is not protest. This is vandalism and attempted murder. These actions do not represent unionism or loyalism. They are an embarrassment to Northern Ireland and only serve to take the focus off the real law breakers in Sinn Fein.
My thoughts are with the bus driver. https://t.co/2JRcOb6s8C
— Arlene Foster #WeWillMeetAgain (@DUPleader) April 7, 2021
Foster and senior DUP leadership may have a fair grievance with police regarding the Storey funeral, but their response to the decision over the past week- especially the decision to repeatedly call on the PSNI chief constable to resign - has ratcheted up tensions already heightened by Brexit. As violence broke out across the past week, they have been slow to condemn it.
And then came last night's tweet.
Foster's quote retweet was roundly condemned - Labour TD Alan Kelly called it 'dangerous, worrying & embarrassing all in one'. Amid the condemnation, Twitter was wise to the perfect pop culture parallel: a scene from the first episode of 'Derry Girls'. You might remember the episode - the girls are reported to Sister Michael for bullying a first-year on the bus. When asked for her version of events, Claire immediately caves and rats out Michelle.
arlene foster blaming sinn fein for loyalist riots tonight on the shankill pic.twitter.com/Y4ojZDma5l
— Tyyyy (@tyrrronee) April 7, 2021
'It had nothing to do with me. Okay, I was there, I admit that. I didn't do anything. It was Michelle. It was all Michelle. I'm not going down for something I didn't do. If anyone deserves to get punished, it should be Michelle.'
Here's Foster reaction to the bus burning captured perfectly. Nothing to do with me, blame the person beside you. The violence in Northern Ireland over the past week has been taking place in Loyalist communities and the tensions have been stoked by Loyalist politicians. It's up to Loyalists leaders in those communities to rein in those tensions and stop the violence.
While it's encouraging to see that Foster tweet this morning that she's spoken with the PSNI's chief constable, we'll give the final word to Sister Michael.
'Well it's safe to say we've all lost a bit of respect for you there, Claire.