Weapons at hand
Belfast, Northern Ireland
By Cathal McNaughton
As I was driving home one night after covering civil unrest in Belfast, I looked at the objects sitting on the passenger seat. There was a golf ball and two snooker balls: objects thrown at members of the police and media by rioters.
I decided that it would be interesting to see how many of these items I could collect over the coming months at the various riots that were sure to follow. The idea was interesting but the difficulty was going to be adding some life to these inanimate objects. They ranged from the ridiculous (a ball covered in insulating tape) to the lethal (a petrol bomb and a hammer).
There were some things I could not collect, such as scaffolding and even a bedside cabinet, due to their size and the dangers of trying to retrieve them.
In the end, I got members of the community to hold the items in an attempt to show how everyone, young and old, male and female, is touched by the continued sectarian trouble between Catholic nationalists who want union with Ireland and mainly Protestant loyalists who want to stay in the United Kingdom. The police service here has spent more than £15 million ($24 million) policing parades and protests since April this year and 689 officers have been injured in such disorder since July 2012.
It has also emerged that it is costing around £300,000 ($480,000) a week to police the nightly loyalist protests in north Belfast. These demonstrations started on July 12 when Orangemen were banned from parading past the shops at Ardoyne.
There is another parade planned for the same area this weekend with several thousand loyalists due to take part. Hopefully I will not be adding to my collection over the coming days.