Statement from Bishop Noel Treanor in response to street violence across Belfast 

09 Apr 2021

Sadly, over the past week, we have experienced a return to civic unrest and violence on our streets. These scenes are deeply concerning for all of us who believe in and have worked together for a shared, brighter future for our society.

Already, many citizens, including a bus driver and a journalist have been injured as a result of this recent violence. I pray they will all recover quickly from their injuries.

I wish to express my particular concern and support for those police officers who have been injured in this violence and for their families. The police service is an integral part of our society, made up of women and men from every background and tradition, called to serve the common good and safety of our shared society. The police service deserves our support in its efforts to bring safety and order to our streets. I ask politicians to weigh carefully the impact of their words, to avoid the deeply damaging politicisation of civic policing and to use the available mechanisms of accountability and influence to deal with any concerns that may arise.

I also appeal to and implore young people to stop engaging in disturbance and violent activity now:

  • I know you don’t want to hurt anyone or kill anyone so don’t get caught up in this violence.
  • Beware of being manipulated and controlled by others who urge you on to violence while they themselves stay in the background so that they don’t get caught.
  • Beware of the cost of getting involved in violence which may result in a criminal record. Look after your future and don’t allow others to destroy it.
  • Stop now, before any action on your part causes serious injury or a person’s death.

 Concerned for all who live here, I appeal to community leaders, civic leaders and politicians:

  • As we come out of the pandemic, there is a future to be built and there is an urgency about building it.
  • Centre public debate on concrete political plans to address poverty, educational opportunity, the creation of jobs for our youth and for the future, and on the economic development of our society.
  • The future, which needs and deserves the commitment of all, urgently requires a narrative of hope that shapes an inclusive future rather than the rhetoric of fear confined to the past.
  • As we build a future together, we all need to support and respect all who work in public service including the police, public transport workers, media and all who make life possible for us.

In this year 2021, there is a choice to be made for our future as a society. For twenty years we have shown that we have the will to make positive choices. Where political leaders harness that will with creative, imaginative and responsible leadership, there is a way. That way involves reaching out in solidarity to build trust and also to challenge those who seek to control and imprison us and our young people in the past.

Let us pray that this path will be shaped and taken with courage by all in leadership for the sake of all who live here.