Nowhere to go
Terrible riots in Belfast at the weekend. And understandable anger on the blogs today. Is it Orangeism in disarray, drug-dealers in turf-wars, Loyalists in meltdown? It's all of those, but far more frightening - and not just for Catholics.
Sure there's organised crime, sure there's poverty, but those things don't bring an evil mob of 700 "Loyalists" out on the street shooting live rounds at the police force appointed by their beloved Queen.
Working-class Protestant ghettoes in Belfast are breaking down because political unionism and die-hard Loyalism have no future, and the people know it. They are 18th and 19th century ideologies, and they belong to the past. A 300-year past which - with the armed republicanism it spawned - got us where we are today.
Even moderate Unionists - the peaceable country folk I grew up with - see the writing on the wall. The British government, so long a benign uncle of an inequitable Stormont, now wants a united Ireland. Not in those words, but Unionists aren't stupid. They know their British days are numbered as the Catholic population grows. On top of this come years of terrorist killings and unchristian rabble-rousing from many Protestant pulpits which have joined to make Belfast's working-class Protestants bitter and besieged. Orangemen are all dressed up with nowhere to go.
There's nothing more dangerous than people without an achievable goal.
But there's an answer. There is a future. We may be Protestant and Catholic, but at the heart of both traditions is belief in Jesus Christ, a great unifier and promoter of peace. We have to start allowing that to unite us - if not a personal faith, then at least the cultural heritage which doesn't actually differ as much as some people would like us to think.
In practical terms, Unionism must change from unionism with the English to unionism with northern Irish Catholics. Because we both belong here.