Northern Irish actor James Nesbitt says the recent violence in Belfast, over a decision to fly the Union flag less frequently, is due to weak leadership and a lack of foresight. The Protestant actor, who grew up in Portrush, County Antrim, believes those responsible need to think of the children and the country’s future.

Nesbit, who recently starred in “The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey”, said “I don’t think it can go back to what it was. What’s happened recently in Belfast is a result of the fact that leadership has been a bit weak. It needs to connect much more.

“They should ask why these kids are doing this – some of those kids have no idea what they’re rioting about half the time. There’s a sense of disconnection. Kids are not being involved or being given options. Leadership has to get hold of that. But this will pass.

“What’s fabulous is that a lot of graduates are now staying in the country, and the universities are also getting in more foreign students. That’s a great sign. Belfast is a city which, while not forgetting its past, is living comfortably with its present and looking forward to its future.

“When I was growing up, Belfast City Hall was surrounded by security and we had no access to it. But now people come in and out of it all the time. On a nice day, office workers and students sit on the lawn outside and have lunch. It’s great to see how Northern Ireland has changed. To be part of that is fantastic.”

Speaking to the BBC Radio Times he said commented on a recent poll in Ireland which showed the majority of Catholics in Northern Ireland are against a United Ireland.

Nesbitt said “As long as it continues to be a trouble-free Ireland, the North and the South will sit very comfortably together. Unification is less important than the fact Ireland is now conflict-free.”

The actor recently took on the role of presenter for the BBC’s documentary “100 reasons to love Northern Ireland”. Currently living in South London with his wife and family and having spent 18 months away, filming “The Hobbit”, Nesbit reflected on his home country.

He told the BBC that Britain might learn something from the Irish.

“As fabulous as technology is, it can also make us very anxious,” he told the Radio Times.

“What I discovered all over Ireland is that people living simple lives by the sea or in the remote countryside seem a lot calmer than city folk with their iPads and their Android phones. Across large parts of Ireland, you can’t get a mobile signal, and I came away thinking, ‘No signal, no worries’.”

After some considerations he agreed to present the show for the BBC. He said “I thought it would be a great opportunity to go back and revisit wonderful places I’d been to long ago. I also wanted to find new places and to meet new people. Above all, I wanted to celebrate Ireland for the Irish, as well as hopefully opening a few eyes across the water and challenging people’s preconceptions.”

Promo shot of James Nesbitt for his new BBC documentaryBBC