A cold coming they had of it – one of the most raw days yet of winter with rain in central Belfast and a dusting of white atop the Black Mountain looming west of town.

Armed with a metal stick to whack an empty Guinness can, or a whistle and harmonica, the odd trombone (aren’t all trombones a wee bit odd…)you name it, the weapons of mass commotion were assembled.

The idea? For five minutes make the biggest cacophony possible to show the silent majority is not, well, silent any longer.

Yesterday the loyalist working class in hoodies, trackies and Rangers scarves. Today it was all quilted jackets, Barbour, tweedy caps and novelty woolen headgear with some heavy ear-muff action. The middle-class were out to make noise.

All around the chat was about the effect a relatively small amount of violence is having on business. The fear-factor.

The hotel receptionist who tells me they’ve been having cancellations all week. The taxi-operator who talks ruefully about the worst Christmas and New Year in 26 years in the business.

13 Belfast2 r 602 Belfasts silent majority makes a noise

Wander around this friendly, educated and articulate crowd and you pick up such snatches on chat all over the gathering of around a thousand.

Appreciative too – offers to come and film aspects of “the real Belfast” have come from all over this week and no wonder when, as one here puts it: “So few people out there can almost bring the city to a standstill. It’s important to show the violence is anything but the full picture of our great city.”

No flags here by request of the organisers – there have probably been enough seen here on recent days.

And shortly after the five noisy minutes they headed home. The point has been made now for a second time. The previous gathering being just before Christmas.

Yet, yesterday saw 29 police officers injured on the streets of east Belfast. The worst day yet in weeks of this.

The small, violent minority are showing a sustained taste for street confrontation the length of which is unseen in N Ireland for very many years.

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