Minimizing the Mayhem in Ireland

  • Share
  • Read Later
BELFAST, Northern Ireland: The sight of 800 fresh British troops patrolling the streets of Belfast in armored vehicles and full riot gear failed to prevent another eruption of Protestant rioting Tuesday night in the Northern Ireland capital. But this time police were able to keep the violence from spilling over into the commercial areas -- and that, says TIME reporter Paul Connolly, is the peacekeepers' best hope for now.

David Trimble, the Protestant head of Northern Ireland's new cross-community government established under the April peace agreement, is an Orangeman himself and is trying to negotiate a compromise with Orange leaders protesting the ban on their march. "Though the Orange leaders knew exactly what would happen when they began a peaceful standoff over the banned march," Connolly says, "there's not much they can do to control their fellow Protestants now." For Tony Blair and the British, the best chance is to use troops to minimize the damage during what promises to be a long and fiery summer marching season. "There's always been an effort to separate marching season from the peace process at large," says Connolly. "This rioting is by the hard-line hooligan element that voted against peace anyway -- the bigger fear is that it will spread beyond these neighborhoods and draw the moderates into the fight."