15 July 2004 Edition
The PSNI were always going to allow Orange hangers-on through Ardoyne
BY ÁINE Ní BHRIAIN
Some things never change.
The trouble that erupted in Ardoyne on Monday as Orange marchers were escorted through an area that is mainly nationalist was inevitable once it became clear that the PSNI had set aside the Parades Commission ruling barring Orange Order supporters, mainly loyalist paramilitaries and drunken louts, from going up the Crumlin Road past the Ardoyne shops.
By early Monday evening, as the 'security operation' swung into action, it was clear to Ardoyne residents that the PSNI had no intention whatsoever of preventing unionist paramilitaries and their supporters from walking past the Ardoyne shops on foot.
They were hemmed in by thousands of Crown Forces personnel at the Ardoyne shops, including British paratroops deployed on Ardoyne Road behind the nationalists.
The heavy-handed military tactics began as early as 5pm, when lines of PSNI Land Rovers and heavily outfitted officers arrived to seal Ardoyne residents off from the Crumlin Road.
Using their vehicles as additional barriers, the PSNI lined the front of the Ardoyne shops from Brompton Park to the Ardoyne Road, in full riot gear. They were accompanied by British soldiers, who took up positions on the ground and atop the roofs of the Ardoyne shops. Meanwhile, at the junction of Woodvale Avenue, two PSNI water cannon sat awaiting orders.
At 6pm, British troops began to erect a massive steel wall along the front of the shops, which also extended to the Ardoyne Road. The wall was approximately 20 feet high and mirrored the lines of British soldiers and PSNI officers who stood grimly facing nationalists.
In spite of the heavy security presence, no effort was made to place vehicles across the path of loyalist supporters on the unionist side. And while nationalist residents nervously faced steel walls and heavily armed troops, loyalists in Twadell Avenue leaned on short metal crash barriers and chatted happily as they waited for marchers to arrive.
Around 6:30pm, a senior unionist paramilitary proudly announced to the ever-present media that a deal had been reached with the PSNI, which would allow parade 'supporters' to march past Ardoyne along with the Orangemen.
Word of the alleged deal filtered back to nationalist residents. Their anger and sense of betrayal was palpable. The message was clear. Once again, nationalists were the problem. It was nationalists who needed policing, not the UDA and its supporters.
By 7pm, a crowd of approximately 800 loyalists had congregated at the corner of Hesketh Road. They began to force British soldiers slowly back towards Ardoyne. Catholic families living in Summerdale Park and Ingledale Park suddenly found themselves behind unionist lines, cut off from the rest of the nationalist community.
At 7:45pm, three buses of Orange bandsmen were hurriedly driven past the Ardoyne shops, their vehicles almost completely hidden by the steel wall which had been erected. All the same, nationalist residents knew the Parades Commission determination was now a moot point. The Orangemen and their UDA companions would be walking past Ardoyne, and they would be doing it with the assistance of the PSNI.
By 8pm, as the Orangemen arrived on the scene, rocks, bricks and bottles began to sail over the steel barricade from both sides. One cameraman was physically assaulted and threatened by a unionist steward.
Just minutes after the Orangemen had passed, angry nationalist residents were forced to stand and watch while up to 400 loyalists also walked up the Crumlin Road - led by well-known unionist paramilitaries such as North Belfast UDA Commander William Borland.
The loyalist crowd actually had time to sing sectarian songs, chant paramilitary slogans, wave UDA flags and taunt Ardoyne residents for several minutes before they were gently eased on by the PSNI.
By this time, Ardoyne nationalists were furious. Loyalists began to gather at the entrance to Glenbryn at the top of Alliance Avenue. They were spotted by residents, who began to rush towards them, believing an attack was imminent. When the PSNI and British paratroops tried to push the nationalist crowd back, they erupted and turned on them.
For nearly an hour, heavy rioting continued on the Ardoyne Road.
Senior republicans tried to place themselves between the crowd and both the PSNI and British soldiers, fearing the troops were about to open fire. The PSNI responded by attacking those same stewards and then added to the chaos by charging into part of the crowd provocatively. Half of the residents fearlessly surged to meet them, while the other half turned its attention to a line of British Army vehicles which had attempted to block the Ardoyne Road.
In the ensuing chaos, Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly was struck with a PSNI baton, breaking his wrist. A local priest from Holy Cross was violently pushed against a wall by the PSNI. Many Ardoyne residents, injured by PSNI batons, were rushed from the scene covered in blood. British Army vehicles were driven towards residents at speed in a frantic effort to escape the onslaught.
No sooner had nationalist stewards managed to calm the situation on one end of the road when trouble broke out on the other end - at Brompton Park. The PSNI moved the water cannon in and opened up. It was almost 20 minutes before an uneasy respite eased the violence.
A shaken Father Aiden Troy of Holy Cross told the assembled media that the trouble was the result of a "huge breakdown in trust" between nationalists, the Parades Commission and the PSNI.
"Nationalists feel betrayed and feel the Parades Commission has washed their hands of this parade," he said. "It was the wrong decision to allow the parade and the supporters up the road."
For the remainder of the night, Ardoyne residents waited to see if any further violence would break out. Republicans and local community stewards kept vigil at the shops.
By the next morning, the press had disappeared, and so had the PSNI and British Army. Ardoyne residents were left to clean up the mess and pick up the pieces while the UDA and Orangemen slept in late, having smugly gotten their way once again.
The morning news reported that 25 PSNI officers and 10 British soldiers were injured in the trouble, along with several civilians. During the violence one Ardoyne nationalist - Tommy Clarke - suffered a heart attack in the driveway of his home and died at the scene, while paramedics tried desperately to reach him. Their ambulance had been unable to get past PSNI vehicles blocking Brompton Park.
Meanwhile, the PSNI man in charge of policing the march, Duncan McCausland, claimed pathetically that he was in an "impossible situation" and that the trouble showed that there was "no policing solution" to such issues.
It was yet another not-so-subtle attempt to shift the blame for the violence away from the PSNI and their decision to accommodate unionist paramilitaries. An old trick. The PSNI were simply "innocent bystanders" caught between two warring tribes.
"There are lessons to be learned from yesterday's operation and we will learn those lessons," offered McCausland condescendingly. "Communities need to engage in dialogue to come up with acceptable solutions and prevent such scenes from occurring again.
"How could I have policed it any differently? Everyone there had their human rights. We did not betray anyone - we policed the law as the law was laid down."
McCausland went on to insist that he could not have stopped loyalists or bussed them through Ardoyne and that the PSNI had only taken the decision to allow Orange supporters up the road at the last minute.
However, that assertion rings hollow - as it was clear from the outset that the PSNI never had any intention of preventing UDA hangers-on from accompanying the Orangemen up the Crumlin Road.
Earlier that day, soldiers from the British Parachute Regiment had arrived from England. Only a few hours later, they were deployed in the middle of the Ardoyne Road, on the nationalist side.
Not only did this illustrate a serious lack of sensitivity towards nationalist and republican residents - who have no love for the hated Paras - it also placed both soldiers and residents at risk by putting British troops in the centre of what the NIO knew would be a volatile situation.
The presence of the Paras was proof of what Ardoyne residents suspected all along - they were there because the NIO knew there would be trouble. And the NIO knew there would be trouble because they had already done a deal with unionists to facilitate a triumphalist UDA march past the Ardoyne shops.
Whatever deal had been struck, it was in place long before the Orange Order ever arrived on the scene.
On the evening of Tuesday 13 July, as the dust began to settle, Ardoyne residents met with republican leaders for a frank and occasionally heated meeting. In attendance alongside other community leaders were Sinn Fein North Belfast MLA's Gerry Kelly and Kathy Stanton, and party president Gerry Adams.
"People will not accept this exhibition of triumphalism," Adams told the media before he entered the meeting. "The croppies will not be lying down. We want to extend the hand of friendship, but we won't have it bitten off.
"The refusal of the Orange Order to talk to their Catholic neighbours is reprehensible, and the fact that the senior unionist party in this constituency has exactly the same position sends entirely the wrong signal.
"Orange marches should not be permitted to go where they are not wanted."
Later that evening, the PSNI put the "lessons" they had learned in Ardoyne into practice.
When members of the Royal Black Perceptory returned to Lurgan from their annual march in Bangor, the PSNI allowed them to enter the William Street area of the town, in direct contradiction of the Parades Commission ruling.
A PSNI spokesperson cited a parked vehicle as reason for the deviation in route, in spite of the fact that the street where the vehicle was parked was also an area prohibited by the Parades Commission ruling.
And while Ardoyne residents wait for the next contentious march through their area in August, their deep sense of resentment, hurt and anger remains as close to the surface as an open wound.