Session 1: Community
‘And I said to my mates. Do you know what you are rioting for?’
In the spring of 2021 young people from mainly Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist (PUL) communities across Northern Ireland from Derry/Londonderry to Belfast, took part in street riots. Buses and cars were burned, bricks and stones were thrown at the PSNI and young people from PUL and Catholic/Nationalist/Republican (CNR) communities also clashed. Several young people were arrested, and these events quickly made the international news. The Shankill is where the boys involved in the making of this course, live. Their area is featured in this news report and is where some of the worst rioting took place.
To get started, have a go at Activity 1.
Activity 1: Why do people riot?
Now watch Video 1, which is a BBC News report on the riots in Northern Ireland in 2021. Then write down your thoughts on the following questions.
What are some of the reasons given in the news report for the rioting by young people?
Why do you think young people get involved in riots like this?
Many different reasons were given in this news report. The reporter mentions political issues such as Brexit and sectarian violence and the recent history of the conflict in Northern Ireland. One resident also stated that young people were being influenced by their politicians into taking part in the violence. But how did you get on with thinking about the young people themselves and their reasons for being involved in rioting? That’s what you are going to explore next.
Now read Matty and Dylan’s comments on why they think young people from their community rioted. Remember when reading that this is how Matty and Dylan feel, from their perspective, and there will be other views on these issues across the different communities, depending on whose perspective you hear.
Read through Dylan and Matty’s views and then answer the following questions.
‘I didn’t think it was good but that was the only way young people could get heard by going out and lifting the bottle so they could. Because it’s not like everyone has this opportunity to speak. Most people just rely on going out of the house and looking for a riot and going and throwing a few bricks and then the trouble starts and then think that’s how to get their voice heard until they are sitting in the back of a wagon [police van] and going down to Musgrave [a city centre police station] and having to ask a few questions. Why were they there? And why were they doing it? Why were they doing it is the question?’
‘Northern Ireland is being split off from England, Scotland and Wales by an Irish sea border. So, people are feeling angry that they are being separated from other British people if you know what I mean. Another factor in the riots was that the Protestant community [Matty’s community] was sort of treated differently by the PSNI (local police force). That was another sort of reason why young people were letting their frustration out because the police were treating the Loyalist protestant community differently than the nationalist Republican community [a neighbouring community] I wouldn’t use violence, but I can understand why some people are using violence because they are being treated differently and their voice is not being heard. Because before the riots, we peacefully protested … and it just wasn’t working. So, people just thought a way to get their voice heard was violence. I can understand it, I can understand it.’
- What reasons do Matty and Dylan give about why young people might choose to riot in their community?
- How did Matty and Dylan’s reasons compare with your own thoughts?
- Did anything surprise you about what they said?
Both Matty and Dylan make clear they would not choose violence themselves, but they can understand it. From Matty’s perspective he feels young people are hearing about political events that affect their community and their concerns about the impact of these events on their community are not being listened to. He also talks about young people in his community feeling they are being treated differently to young people in other communities. (Remember, young people from Catholic/Nationalist/Republican (CNR) communities were also involved in some of this rioting and might have different perspectives on this issue). Both Matty and Dylan say that rioting was one of the few options available to young people in their area and that it was something young people ‘rely on’ to get their voice heard (that it is an established way of acting). But both boys are also asking questions about the choices young people make.
While Matty and Dylan feel young people have grievances you may have noticed that both are also asking young people to take a moment to think more deeply, to question themselves and consider why are they rioting. In this course you will have a chance to explore this and other questions. As you work your way through this course, you will have the opportunity to consider your own thoughts on these issues as well as exploring alternative ways of protesting or making your voice heard, without using violence and putting yourself and others at risk.
By the end of Session 1, you should be able to:
- think about how you see yourself and your identity
- think about how others see you and your community
- explore what community means to you and your identity
- think about how all these factors can shape the options you have and the choices you make.
Protecting your mental health and wellbeing
Please refer to thepage if you notice a negative emotional reaction to aspects of the course materials. You may wish to step away from the materials, to reflect and to think about whether to continue at this time.