Derry rioting, shots at PSNI and stop-and-search figure in peace health check

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Six nights of rioting and the attempted murder of police officers in the Bogside, Derry’s higher than average stop-and-search rate, and Brexit, all figure in a new report that takes the temperature of the peace process in the North.

‘Peace Monitoring Five’, written independently by a team of academics led by the Derry-based Professor Gillian Robinson of Ulster University, was published by the Community Relations Council (CRC) yesterday. The desktop study highlights ‘critical peace process issues at a key time for North’.

Prof. Robinson explained: “The Peace Monitoring Report reviews the critical social, economic, peace building and reconciliation issues in Northern Ireland 2016-2018. We hope the report talks to this time and that it constructively summarises the issues. It is hoped that it will be used as a tool for thinking through the complex challenges ahead.”

CRC Chair, Peter Osborne, warned: “We must understand there is no inevitable forward flow to our peace process. It needs constant work and complacency is its worst enemy during this period of uncertainty.”

The report looks at several issues in Derry last year that had a bearing on local efforts to cement the peace process.

For example, in a section on hate crime, it refers to the disorder that convulsed the Bogside in the run up to the Orange Order’s July 12 demonstration last summer.

“Beginning on Saturday July 7, 2018, there were six nights of rioting and disturbances by young people in the Bogside area of Derry and the apparent involvement of some dissident republican paramilitaries on at least one of the nights when shots were fired at police.

“The disturbances began when a group of nationalist youths left Lecky Road in the Bogside and went to the peace line dividing The Fountain estate and Bishop Street Without and threw three petrol bombs over the metal security fence, one of which exploded,” the report states.

It brands the attack on the Fountain as “a sectarian hate crime” but notes how “news of the attack led to a rally on Monday, July 9, 2018 when 100 people walked along the same route taken by the rioters to demonstrate their condemnation of the attacks and their support for the residents of The Fountain”.

Elsewhere, the report references the use of stop-and-search powers by the PSNI under the Justice and Security (NI) Act 2007 (JSA), which is of a higher rate than average in Derry. It notes that the number of stop-and-searches in Derry City and Strabane appears to be 3.6 per cent higher than might be expected if stops were evenly spread across the North’s population.

“Concern has been expressed that the use of everyday/non-terrorismrelated stop and search appears to be directed at, ‘young males in socioeconomically deprived areas’ (Topping and Bradford, 2018:6,” it reports.

Brexit also figures with Derry’s stalled bid for European Capital of Culture 2023 cited as one of its victims.

“An early casualty of Brexit came when a joint bid by Belfast City Council, and Derry City and Strabane District Council to become the 2023 European Capital of Culture was rejected by the European Commission because of the UK’s decision to leave the EU,” the report observes.