Sunday, September 11, 2005

No Hope Here

One of the advantages of high-rise living in a low-rise city like Belfast is that I have a decent view of most of the city from my windows. And, boy, it was worth it last night. The place really looked like a warzone. At one point there were five pillars of smoke rising in various spots across the city as helicopters and aircraft circling overhead. Bizarrely, the evening was topped off when the Red Arrows did a fly-past right over my building, as the promenaders fiddled in Donegal Square. Anyway, the night's orchestrated events (see here for a rather public example) were thoroughly depressing.

Saying that people have a fundamental right to march is like saying that I have the right to drive my car at any speed I like and on any side of the road that takes my fancy. There is no fundamental right to march. Not here, not anywhere. Freedom of movement is less important than the maintainance of a certain level of public order. It can only be exercised under certain conditions and the democratic state is well in order if it sets up a legal framework that restricts that right.

Apart from being a UVF show of force (which, from what I've heard, is the general demeaner of the Whiterock parade anyway), yesterday's riots were in frustration, not at the state's blocking the right to march, but at the state's blocking some people from acting on a belief that they have the right to act with impunity.

And the less said about senior politicians flirting with incitements to violence the better. Or rather, the more said...

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