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10 July 1997 Edition

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No law, no justice

Eyewitness reports

Eyewitness to a military invasion



Pride in community response



Peadar Whelan was in the Garvaghy Road last Saturday and Sunday. Here, in words and pictures, is their account of the British military attack on that nationalist community


THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT DECISION to send RUC and British army stormtroopers onto the Garvaghy Road in the early hours of Sunday morning 6 July to impose martial law was cynical and vicious in the extreme.

A community that had hoped that the new British government with Dr Marjorie Mowlam at the NIO would at last protect their rights and bar the Orange Order from tramping through their area and over their dignity was sorely disillusioned.

And as Sunday 6 July wore on that disillusionment turned to a deep anger that will not go away for many years.

From last Wednesday 2 July when the RUC wrote to the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition telling them that their festival, planned for Sunday, was effectively banned, the writing seemed on the wall for their efforts for a peaceful resolution to a problem that has dogged their lives for years.

However, when we travelled to the Garvaghy Road in Portadown last Friday there was an almost unreal sense of carnival as crowds milled around watching muralists put the finishing touches to three works. One of the murals, linked hands resembling a dove, called for peace with justice. It was designed by local children.

Later, as hundreds of residents made their now nightly picket at the roadside the Welsh Red Choir, familiar to many from their visits of solidarity to the North, sang of revolution.

Even our trip to the cemetery at Drumcree church had the air of adventure. We walked past the outside broadcast vans from where the TV news was being transmitted and stood in the shadow of a church that has become synonymous with the suppression of nationalist rights and unionist intransigence.

Now after Sunday it has joined the roll of shame of yet another British government that has opted to brutalise nationalists when unionists crack the whip: Sunday 6 July will rank alongside internment, Bloody Sunday and the Hunger Strikes.

During Saturday the rumour mill was producing one possible scenario after another, adding to the air of tension that was building. And as the deadlines, when Mowlam was to contact the Coalition informing them of her decision, moved through the hours of the clock and there was no word it became clear to the residents of the Garvaghy Road that the promised early warning was not going to materialise.

The tense atmosphere seemed to produce a listlessness among the people: one resident drove us through the roads surrounding Garvaghy Road; along King Street, Obins Street, past the notorious Craigwell flashpoint and down to Corcrain Road. From there we went up past the Drumcree Church and were stopped by British soldiers and RUC no less than six times.

Drumcree Community Centre was a hive of activity as members of the various groups who travelled into Portadown as observers organised themselves, waited and waited some more.

Then at 5pm a fax message arrived asking the Coalition to contact the NIO. Instead of informing the residents of her decision regarding the march, Mowlam was responding to Breandan MacCionnaith's expressed disappointment that on the eve of the march his community still had no idea what would happen to it.

``No decision has yet been made,'' was the Direct Ruler's reply.

Moving into the early hours of Sunday morning we received the news that British army engineers had erected a barrier across Drumcree Road, in the spot where on two previous years other barriers had been built in order to prevent the Orangemen from marching down the Garvaghy Road, and then, after stand-offs, dismantled.

``It will be different this year,'' hoped the residents. ``New Labour was not dependent on unionist votes with its 170 plus majority, and hadn't `Mo' promised she would be different?''

In the space of three hours honest, genuine, trusting people would have their feelings, emotions and hopes crushed by a force of almost four thousand British troops and RUC.

The British had set their trap, now all they had to do was spring it.

At about 2.00am the residents warning siren wailed and we ran to the road.

``It's a false alarm,'' we were told, ``some soldiers took a wrong turning''.

Of course, no one really believed this and accompanied by a number of sceptical residents we walked to the roundabout at the Dungannon Road. In the car park of the Catholic Chapel were hundreds of British Army vehicles, all parked up but clearly ready to invade. It was an ominous sight. The car park is not fenced, ensuring an unhindered departure when the British troops received their orders.

We had barely returned to the brow of the Garvaghy Road, walking in to Ballyoran, when the alarm was raised a second time. This time a contingent of British troops had strayed onto the road and confronted by residents, they stopped. A crowd formed and some approached them and then a second time they retreated towards Ballyoran, but before anyone could breathe their relief the British government sprung its trap. It was 3.30am.

The ``least worst'' scenario snapped into place as grey RUC jeep followed by grey RUC jeep sped onto Garvaghy Road. An iron fist of black uniformed RUC hiding behind balaclava masks punched and batoned its way down the road.

As residents tried to form up in peaceful protest they were swept aside, batoned, kicked and punched as the RUC advanced. Some met this violence with bricks, bottles and other missiles. Then the first of three petrol bombs were thrown. Plastic bullets were fired and claimed their first hit. Donncha, from Waterford, who had come along as an observer, was yards from me and was clearly unarmed in any way. He was struck on the throat and two people who aided him were also fired on and both injured. All three received hospital treatment. (See box).

Two other men ran past with blood streaming from head wounds and a delighted youth danced proudly as he displayed the RUC helmet he captured.

Driven back to the entrance to Churchill Park the crowd was encircled by a second RUC force that had come up from the town; the people sat on the ground in peaceful protest.

It was then only a matter of time before they were dragged off the road and when the removal came it came with the same violence and brutality that accompanied the initial invasion.

One by one the protesters were dragged and beaten from the Garvaghy Road and as each was hurled through the RUC lines RUC members rained baton strikes on them.

No one who was there that night will forget the wanton brutality of the RUC, there is no doubt they enjoyed their work.

The crown forces had complete control of the estates by this time and the sporadic rioting that was going on was a token resistance inflated by the RUC to justify its actions. Residents were refused permission to go to shops nor could they move freely about the area.

The cruellest irony of the day was the way in which the people were told by the RUC they would not be allowed to go to mass and opted to have an open air service surrounded by British soldiers and their heavy Saxon armoured cars.

After the mass people went to the Drumcree Centre to take stock of the day and speaking to some of the observers, particularly some TDs and the Americans, it was clear that whatever they thought might happen, their view of the RUC and British government was changed by what happened.

And if I had a penny for every insult directed at Marjorie Mowlam I would have left Portadown a very rich man.

If tension eased slightly in the next hours it cranked up again when the Orange parade was due along the road, at about 1.00pm. People made their way to a car park close to the road and rattled pots, pans, binlids and anything else that would make noise, a noise that rose to an unbelievable crescendo when the Orangemen passed. They knew the residents of Garvaghy Road weren't defeated and were still defiant.

Immediately after the parade as the RUC and British army pulled out of the area they were pelted with bricks and bottles and fired plastic bullets in return.

Speaking to the crowd Breandan MacCionnaith said, ``the RUC came in this morning to beat us into the ground. They thought we were beaten. Do you look like a defeated people?''

``No,'' shouted the crowd.

``You have won the respect of people throughout Ireland,'' MacCionnaith told them, ``the people of Ireland are looking at you, they are proud of you''.

It's true. There was a sense of pride in seeing how that communtiy had withstood what was a military invasion. And I knew that the people of Ireland would be looking at that community to admire its resilience and respect its dignity in the face of the most extreme provocation.


Observer, nurse hit by plastic bullets


Donncha O'Fearain was one of the first to be injured by a plastic bullet as the RUC moved in. He was hit in the throat and a student nurse, Tria Ni Chormaic who went to his aid realised he could not breathe. She worked with him and got him breathing even as plastic bullets were still being fired and a second young lad who came to help her was also hit.

``I got up and started shouting that I was attending to the wounded,'' said Tria, ``but the RUC kept firing. They were about 25 yards away''.

Then Tria was hit herself. She maintains it was an aimed shot and hit her on the leg. People who saw the incident told the young woman that the RUC deliberately fired at her.

All three were brought to hospital where initially staff were worried about Donncha whose injury was the most serious and who was kept in. Tria and the other lad were released later. She has ripped muscle in her leg and bad bruising.

``I'm extremely angry and bitter,'' she told An Phoblacht. ``Mowlam has a lot to answer for.''


Like Sharpeville - South African MP


South African MP Gora Ebrahim, who witnessed the events on the Garvaghy Road, told An Phoblacht that the scenes he witnessed were like Sharpeville and Sunday was a day when the British government destroyed whatever optimism there was with the recent Labour victory in England.

``It's obvious the decision was not a spontaneous one, it was made well in advance and made at a political level - not by the RUC - it will take the British a long time to rebuild confidence''.

Ebrahim said that on his return to South Africa he will submit a report to the Foreign Affairs committee who sent him to Ireland and will seek a meeting with President Mandela, ``who has a great interest in Ireland''.

``It was interesting to personally witness that nationalists say they are treated as second class citizens and Sunday's events confirmed that to me: the rights and feelings of the Garvaghy Road residents came second to the Orange order,'' he said.

 

Terrified observers bear witness to brutality



Most terrifying experience of my life



Kieran Clifford is an American citizen who works in the Friends of Sinn Fein (FOSF) office in Washington DC. She came to the Garvaghy Road as an observer and to show solidarity with the people of the area.


I went to the Garvaghy Road last weekend to the most terrifying experience of my life. We headed out to the Garvaghy Road on Saturday afternoon and found the mood festive as the artists finished up the three storey high murals directly facing the Garvaghy Road. At 6pm a protest line was formed along the length of the Road. The residents had been conducting the one hour protests each evening since Wednesday 2 July.

Following the protest there was a meeting at the community centre for the more than 50 International Observers in Portadown for the
    
Though I was more scared than I had ever been before I felt justified in the position I was taking
weekend. The largest organised groups came from the United States with Peace Watch Ireland and the Irish American Information Service delegations acting as anchors.

At the meeting Breandan MacCionnaith gave a briefing on the conduct expected from observers with the emphasis on respect for the position of the residents and for our individual safety.

Around 2:30am the alarm sounded that the RUC was moving in. A false alarm, it set everyone on edge. The international observers were on the street with the residents when the alarm went off again. As the RUC tightened the circle around those sitting on the road in peaceful protest nerves began to fray. The initial feeling among the American observers was one of disbelief as they viewed the RUC moving their armoured landrovers into position at either end of the road and the British Army preparing the Saxons to block all other access. Many of the observers who were within the circle had never before participated in anything like it. You could see the fear and worry on their faces but they stood firm documenting all that they witnessed.

As I sat on the road I spoke to some of the American observers who wanted me to move over to where they stood. Though I was more scared than I had ever been before I felt justified in the position I was taking. As the RUC moved in to remove first one woman and then the two men she was linked to my heart started to thump in my chest. I watched the RUC, in their full body armour tearing unarmed, peaceful protesters away from the road, kicking them and batoning them as they went. The RUC was most intimidating, dressed all in black, leg guards up over their knees, riot helmets and shields. If they didn't get your hands peeled away on the first go they went for your nostrils and ripped your head back until you couldn't hold on. As my turn came I held on and put my head down intent on not letting them pull me off. On the other side of the line some of the American observers expressed their disgust at the actions of the RUC as they beat people in an effort to move them. Sean Cahill, of Peace Watch Ireland was visibly distraught as he attempted to tend to people injured in the struggle.

Alan Hevesi, Comptroller for the City of New York and responsible for $70 million of investments for the city, arrived at the community centre around 11am, fulfilling his promise made during a meeting earlier in the week to return on the day of the march.

Hevesi expressed real disgust at how things had been handled by the British government, the RUC and the British Army.

Referring to it as a ``blown opportunity on the part of the British government'', Hevesi saw the entire day as a huge setback to the efforts to restore any sort of peace process in the North. He went on to describe the economic damage, not merely in terms of what was destroyed during rioting but in the fact that business investors would not see the North as a viable investment opportunity in the foreseeable future.

As an individual I can only say that it was a surreal experience. As people were beaten by the ``police force'' a Welsh choir sang hymns in solidarity with the community, continuing as the rioting began. There are no words adequate enough to describe the scene on the Garvaghy Road that morning. My feeling is that more people have to witness it to fully comprehend the sectarian nature of the RUC and the second class status of the nationalists. I think Tony Blair should take a trip to Portadown or the Lower Ormeau or Bellaghy to get a clear sense of what the British government's policies are doing in the North of Ireland, as if he doesn't already know.


Calculated brutality



International human rights observer Lorraine Irvine details what she saw on the Garvaghy Road

In my first attempt to write this article I tried to be quite clinical in my assessment of the multiple abuses I witnessed and experienced.

As I compiled my list of abuses ranging from the excessive use of force by the RUC, to the failure of members of the riot squads to display any form of identification, and more ironically to the denial of the Garvaghy residents' right to freedom of religious expression, freedom of movement, freedom from fear of physical and pyschological violence, presumably the various rights of the Orangmen which were being upheld only at
The lasting images I will carry with me are ones of overwhelming and brutal force being inflicted on a vulnerable, defenceless community which felt completely betrayed by those with whom it had engaged in repeated attempts to find a peaceful and nonviolent solution to the parades issues
 
the cost of the denial of those same rights to the Garvaghy Road residents, I concluded that the most simple assessment of the day I could make would be to describe the operation of the British security forces that day as one of calculated brutality. From the time I arrived on the road at 3:50 am until I departed at 5pm, the lasting images I will carry with me are ones of overwhelming and brutal force being inflicted on a vulnerable, defenceless community which felt completely betrayed by those with whom it had engaged in repeated attempts to find a peaceful and nonviolent solution to the parades issues.

As a citizen of the United States who is protestant and from a community in the Appalachian South which draws upon a rich Ulster-Scots heritage, I was deeply shocked by the blatant supremicist comments and actions expressed by the riot squads cloaked in the anonymity of balaclavas and hidden identification badges. I must admit that my view has been shaped by the personal comments of some members of the riot squads who as I was roughly shoved about stated,'' we especially don't want you human rights types here telling us how we should do our job.''

While comparisons between Klu Klux Klan marches and Orange marches have been drawn, it is not my brief to comment upon the marchers; however, as a human rights activist, the actions of both the security forces and protestors do come under my remit. The comparison I feel is most appropriate is to a situation which occurred in my home state in the US.

There, five policemen who were found to have attended a private function in which racist jokes were told, a mock lynching held, and other forms of racist behavior engaged in, were immediately suspended and then fired after their case was reviewed. They were dimissed not only because they were viewed as unacceptable by the minority African-American community, but also because they were perceived as unacceptable as members of a police force responsible for the just policing of all citizens of the state. It is my view that if that same principle were applied to the forces present at Garvaghy Road, the security presence would have been greatly reduced, though, perhaps, the number of Orangemen marching would have been proportionally increased.

In the long hours of violence which followed the march, a violence which, despite the origins of its provocation, has also been abusive of the rights of individuals, Secretary of State Mo Mowlam, has called upon the Orange Order to express a spirit of generosity. Had Dr Mowlam not betrayed the residents of the Garvaghy Road whose disappointment was palpable and personally come to inform them of the decision to force the march down the road as she had promised, she would have seen the courage, dignity, and enormous generosity of spirit of the residents present that day. Given that the Garvaghy residents' generosity of spirit seems to have only suceeded in securing their physical battering and denial of basic human rights, what possible incentives could she expect generosity of spirit to offer to the Orange Order now? Regrettably, the lesson taught on the Garvaghy Road on Sunday was not that democracy sustains the basic human rights of all its citizens but rather that the British version requires the suspension of the rights of nationalists to preserve, not democracy, but the supremacy of one community, the maintenance of order, and the continuation of the British Union.

 

Protest rallies

Derry defiant



Ignoring John Hume's appeal to ``keep off the streets'', ten thousand very angry Derry citizens poured into the Bogside on Sunday night to march on the RUC Barracks in Strand Road. Anger almost too deep for words swept the city after people saw the humiliation of their nationalist neighbours in Garvaghy Road - by the RUC, by Mo Mowlam and by Britain's Labour administration.

Donncha MacNiallais, Bogside Residents Group spokesperson, recalled events lasy year: ``Those scenes of brutality, and the violence that preceded and followed them, shocked people out of any sense of complacency. Nationalist Ireland was united in its opposition. It could never happen again, we were told. It must never happen again. With this year's marching season upon us, once again we were facing the same issues and problems. The election of a Labour government was hailed in some quarters as a ray of hope amidst the gloom. Tony Blair wasn't dependent on Unionist votes. Mo Mowlam wasn't an arrogant colonial blimp like Paddy Mayhew. Everyone agreed that things had to change. nationalist Ireland watched, waited, and hoped for change.

``Instead, we are undergoing the annual nationalist experience of watching a British government folding under the threat of unionist violence.

Last year Garvaghy Road residents were beaten into the ground in broad daylight. Today they were attacked in the dead of night. It's a clear message from the British government: unionist violence or the threat of it will dictate political response.

``Ronnie Flanagan, of the same RUC incapable of ensuring a safe passage of the worshippers of Harryville, tells us ``I did it for you.''

``It's a case of New Labour, old habits. Portadown's Orangemen were prepared to reduce the 6 Cos to anarchy and Mo Mowlam capitulated.''

Martin McGuinness put it bluntly: ``Tony Blair failed his first test in Ireland.'' Referring to John Hume's plea for people to stay off the streets, he said, ``All over the world, in Nicaragua, Chile, El Salvador, South Africa, to Palestine, the message is clear: the only place to be when demanding justice and equality is on the streets, confronting your opponent.''

The massive crowd, including many young people and the middle-aged, returned to the Bogside in a peaceful and disciplined manner.

 

Nationalist anger in Armagh



Nationalists in Armagh reacted with fury at the decision to force the Portadown Orange Order down the Garvaghy Road. A public meeting was held at the Shambles and despite short notice hundreds attended. It was chaired by Barry McKee of the local residents association and Sinn Féin councillors Noel Sheridan and Sean McGirr. The speakers criticised both Ronnie Flanagan, the RUC and Mowlam.

A white line picket at the Shambles on Tuesday night resulted in a crowd of several hundreds surging up English Street and confronting the massed line of RUC landrovers and armoured personnel carriers. The RUC attempted to disperse the crowd. The picket lasted an hour and was concluded when Sheridan addressed the crowd reminding them of further protests during the week.

Shambles Rally Wednesday 9th - 8pm

Irish Street white line picket Thursday 10th - 8pm

Shambles white line picket Friday 11th - 8pm

Saturday 12 July - there will be a series of protests and pickets at the Shambles and Railway street areas to protest against the Orange Order's expected march through the area.

 

Newry plans more protests



Three thousand people took to the streets of Newry on Sunday in solidarity with the nationalists of the Garvaghy Road. People marched behind banners saying `Dismantle the Orange State' and `Disband the RUC' to a rally outside the Ardmore RUC barracks on the Belfast Road.

They were addressed by Sinn Féin Councillor Pat McNamee and Gary Jones, spokesperson for Newry Residents Coalition Against Sectarian Marches.

A further march and rally is planned for Newry on Friday night (assembling at 7.00pm at Soho Car Park) and on Saturday morning there will be protests at three Orange marches which are planned to pass through the 95% nationalist town.

 

Anger at Derry meeting



By Tuesday night, neither anger nor determination had abated. For once a Derry meeting started on time - by 7:30 pm, upwards of 700 people squeezed themselves into Pilots Row Community Centre. It was standing room only, and that was 3 deep against the walls, with people crowded onto the floor.

BRG leader Donncha MacNiallais invited everyone to a protest in Guildhall Square at 3 pm on Thursday, when Mo Mowlam meets local councillors. One woman pointed out the futility of talking to her and called for a clear message from protesters: ``Mo: GO!''

Others called for complete opposition to Saturday's planned march of 20,000 Orangemen, with a variety of suggestions. A multi-start march from all areas of the city will be held on Friday night, converging on the City Centre at 7 pm. Businesses were called upon to close, so that ``if the Orangemen march in this city on Saturday, it will be into a dead city and out of a dead city.''

Gerard Rice of the Lower Ormeau Residents got a standing ovation. He pointed out that rioting must not be allowed to change the focus from the British and Orange state's blame in all this. ``It is very important that the media focus on who the real enemies are. Mo Mowlam has included nationalist rioting in her game plan. He asked ``What is the acceptable level of loss of life in the nationalist community for the British? It seems that nationalists are easy killed and easy buried. There is no acceptable loss of life for the British within the unionist community.''

Another woman reiterated this: ``Nationalists and young Catholics have been told by the British that they are expendable. Mo Mowlam is going to make the same cost-benefit calculation this time as last: She reckoned that the Catholic backlash would cost less than the Orange backlash. Let's give her different sums this time.''

 

RUC inflict horrific injuries

Plastic bullet leaves boy in coma



By Eoin O'Broin

Over 2500 plastic bullets have been fired at nationalists since the Orange march through Garvaghy Road last Sunday. In Belfast alone over 30 young people have been hospitalised and scores more wounded. One 14 year old boy from West Belfast is fighting for his life in the Royal Victoria Hospital after being hit in the head with a plastic bullet.

Young Gary Lawlor was hit in Lenadoon on Sunday evening after the RUC opened fire on groups of young people returning home from a disco on the Falls Road. Lawlor, who was staying with his aunt in the area, was shot in the back of the head when the RUC opened fire without warning. The 14 year old immediately lost consciousness and was taken to a nearby house before being taken to hospital. As we go to print Gary has yet to regain consciousness. His parents have not left his bedside since he was taken to the RVH for treatment. In a statement read to the public by his cousin Janet Donnelly on behalf of Gary's distressed parents they called for the immediate banning of plastic bullets.

Maíre Walsh was hit on the side of the mouth with a plastic bullet at the time Gary Lawlor was shot. She had been to a teenage disco and along with two friends left their friend home. It was as they turned to return along the Stewartstown Road that the RUC fired on the teenagers indiscriminately.

13 year old Maíre told An Phoblacht that there was no rioting at the waste ground where she was, that the RUC pulled up in jeeps, disembarked and fired. ``I heard a click and turned round to see what it was and it was then I was hit. The doctor said that if I hadn't turned round I might be dead now''.

The young girl and her friends managed to run and take cover behind a memorial to 13 year old Julie Livingstone, herself a victim of a plastic bullet fired by the RUC in 1981.

``They kept on firing at us. I heard them laughing at us,'' she said.

It was during this incident that Gary Lawlor was shot and both teenagers were carried to a house on Doon Road from where they were taken to hospital.

Later on that night the RUC attacked the house, firing plastic bullets into it, shooting the woman of the house on the leg.

The RUC also carried out a number of savage beatings on nationalists in both North and West Belfast. In Oldpark, Martin Murphy was knocked down by an RUC jeep while walking to a local pub. The RUC men proceeded to kick and hit him about the body as he lay on the ground. In hospital afterwards he received 13 stitches to the head and was treated for severe bruising.

Meanwhile 25 year old Aisling Jennings was shot in the leg when a live round was fired by the crown forces from New Barnsley RUC barracks in the early hours of Monday morning. Jennings was brought to the RVH where she was treated for a fractured bone.

Jennings, a mother of a seven month old child, told An Phoblacht, ``I left a friend's house early on Monday morning, thinking everything had quietened down, and was shot from Henry Taggart barracks. The doctors aren't sure if I will fully recover and they might have to put a steel pin in my leg''.

At a Belfast press conference on Tuesday 8 July, called to highlight the brutality, Sinn Féin councillors Chrissie McAuley and Michael Browne attacked the RUC for their ``gross misconduct'' and demanded that plastic bullets be immediately banned.

``In opposition the British Labour party had a clear opposition to the use of plastic bullets. Now that they are in government I call on them to honour their policy position,'' said McAuley.

Michael Browne accused the RUC of contravening every guideline on the use of plastic. As the accounts and injuries of those injured shows, the RUC are going out of their way to cause serious injury and even attempting to murder people''.

Speaking at the press conference Rosaleen Walsh, mother of 13 year old Maíre asked ``how could I ever teach my children to respect the RUC when the RUC don't respect the nationalist community?''

 

RUC savagely beat ex-prisoner



A 29 YEAR OLD ANDERSONSTOWN MAN, Collie McCaffrey, was savagely beaten by the RUC as he walked home with friends in the early hours of Monday morning 7 July.

Despite being in RUC custody since the beating and having seen three doctors the man's face was still caked in blood from a suspected broken nose when he walked into An Phoblacht's Belfast office at 1pm, about 12 hours after the attack.

According to the man the attack was unwarranted and he said that the RUC man who hit him knew him as an ex republican prisoner.

``We were walking past Woodbourne RUC barracks when the RUC told us we couldn't go along the Stewartstown Road. They had white tape across the road to block people, but it was clear that nothing was going on so we asked to go on. It was then the RUC man hit me in the face''.

According to one of those with McCaffrey, the other RUC men then laid into him, kicking him and hitting him with a baton as he lay on the ground. They then dragged him into Woodbourne barracks where he was again attacked in reception.

McCaffrey's friends were next assaulted as they tried to help him and as the RUC were attacking them a woman pulled up in a car and told the RUC she witnessed everything that happened. The three friends only got away when a taxi driver pulled up and got them into his cab.

McCaffrey was next brought to Lisburn RUC barracks where he was again beaten. He was eventually charged with riotous behaviour.

 

Political analysis

New Labour - same Orange state



Once again a British government has acted with duplicity and bad faith. They have also quite cynically manipulated negotiations and, when the time came, sent in the sectarian RUC to brutalise the nationalist community of the Garvaghy Road.

Those are facts which Mo Mowlam is finding it impossible to refute. Her government played the Orange card because it was unwilling to confront the dominant bloc in the Six Counties: the Orange Order, the RUC and the Ulster Unionists. As so often in the past, the forces of the Unionist state would not face down Unionists. And the new Labour government acquiesced in that.

Mowlam then had the audacity to say that the decision to force an Orange march through a nationalist area was taken because of ``intransigence on both sides''. The truth is that the Garvaghy Road residents were at all times willing to meet with the Orange Order. Their bravery in standing up to sectarian coat-trailing has been matched by craven cowardice from the Labour government.

This week nationalists have rightly been angry. That anger should now become a force for positive change. Demonstrations, rallies and imaginative forms of protest must show to the world that inequality still rules OK under British sovereignty in six Irish counties. And they must show that nationalists are no longer prepared to tolerate it. These demonstrations must also show that equality is an all-Ireland issue, and that the international community has a role to play.

And what of the future role of the British Labour government? Having failed their first crucial test they must be challenged effectively on the political front. Do they intend to abdicate their responsibility and carry on with the unionist agenda they inherited from John Major? On the evidence of this week that is their intention.

Their course can only be changed by the determined political efforts of nationalist Ireland demanding all-inclusive negotiations, an end to the Orange state, and equality for all citizens irrespective of their creed. The British government must be faced with political protest which says that change is happening and it is inevitable. Massive protest will persuade them that following the old agenda of domination, triumphalism and sectarianism will only make that inevitable change more painful.

The need for discipline



In these harrowing times it is essential always to be mindful of the source of sectarianism in Ireland. That source is British rule, partition and the pro-partitionist loyal orders and unionist parties. Sectarianism in all its forms must be deplored. Sadly in the past week there have been some isolated examples of sectarian attacks against Protestants. These should cease immediately. Not only are they sectarian in themselves but they shift the focus away from the sources of sectarianism in Ireland, the very cause of the crisis in which we find ourselves.

 

 Great Lessons in British doublespeak. No 1690



By Mary Nelis

Now, see here Mo, I resigned from the Masonic Order so people would believe I was impartial. It's not easy to be a Chief Constable and not belong to the Loyal Orders. Mind you, I'm still an ex-officio member and indeed I command a force of loyal brethren, though the past few years have been really difficult for the chaps. We all have to wear our sashes under our flak jackets and where that's not a problem the bowler hats under the helmets are. Phew.

I digress. What we need to do here is work out a line for the marching season. We need to sing with one voice, Mo, on all the 3,000 parades. We can't be seen - well, we can pretend that we may have differences - but we can't be seen in any way other than fully supporting the Brethren.

You ask why? Good worshipful Master Mo, don't you fully understand that the Orangemen are our friends, our relatives, our comrades in arms? Tony recognised that and he said as much when he visited us a few weeks ago. Remember he said the Union was safe and the Dublin Government should change the constitution so that all those nationalist troublemakers would no longer be second class citizens? They would not be citizens at all.

Tony was only saying what we in the RUC and the Loyal Orders have been saying for years. Send them all down South. There is no alternative in our Province to the invincible combination of the Orange Order and the Unionist Party. It's called the ``Big Drums'' principle, Mo, and it has stood by the union come thick or thin. No surrender. Not an inch. These are the watchwords of our democratic society, Mo, so you understand why we need to walk the Queen's highway 3,000 times each year. Yes, the province has always led the way in freedom of expression. I mean, can you imagine what this place would be like if all this stopped?

Anyway Mo, apart from standing by the Brethren, as a military man, and a man of considerable intelligence, gained over the years in the service of the Special Branch, we can bullshit all we like for the Loyal Orders, but the bottom line is that we don't want to fight a war on two fronts. It's the unionists we have to look out for here, Mo. We've always done it.

We have made sure over the years that they were adequately supplied with legal and illegal weapons. Not that they will need them this marching season. We can take the pressure off them by deploying the regulars, you know, the professional army, Mo.

Sure they are only the unemployed and disadvantaged of the UK, They're dispensable. So no worries there. Mind you, it helps to get more squaddies out on the field. No, silly, I didn't mean ``the field''. I meant the streets and fields around Garvaghy. It helps because I want to ensure that my men in Portadown have the opportunity to walk with their lodge. They can wear their collarettes underneath their flak jackets.

What will Labour backbenchers say? Well look Mo, old chap, sorry, Secretary of State, don't concern yourself with these trivialities. Sure New Labour will do the job just as well as Old Labour in 1974.

Harold, good socialist that he was, knew the score even then, though he was buddy buddy with Hume and Fitt. We had advised Whitelaw that powersharing would not be tolerated. They all knew at Westminster that we wanted Stormont back. But you know Mo, there are times when we need to teach parliament a lesson. They just use and abuse loyal Ulstermen when it suits them. So we were glad when our friends in the loyalist paramilitaries, the UDA, were superbly closing down the Province. It was a bonus for us when the Tories lost power, served them right, and Labour came in.

You may not recall the Loyalist workers strike, Mo. But when the loyal workers brought this place to a standstill, they knew they could rely on the RUC and the auxiliaries in the UDR to co-operate. Indeed the loyal workers in the power stations kept the supply on long enough to allow Harold to make the usual statement of not surrendering to those breaking the law and intimidating people.

Harold was convincing, Mo. The Labour government of the day understood the politics of double speak. In fact, Mo, I think you will be excellent when you need to explain to the nationalists that when we beat them off the streets and fire plastic bullets at their heads, it's to prevent them being assassinated by the more exuberant members of professionally trained death squads.

Look, there's no need to worry. Just remember of course, Ian Paisley, shrewd politician that he is, said we had only won a battle and he declared that the war should carry on, which is why we are having this little problem now, Mo. But I know we can rely on you to convince Labour fellow travellers of the Taigs, like Benn and Corbyn, that all this is about preserving the Union and democracy. You can us the old ``majority decide'' line.

There should be no trouble with the SDLP. Sure we did all this last year and the SDLP eventually came round to our way of thinking, which is to blame the IRA for everything. It works Mo, especially if we can organise a situation where Trimble and Hume can walk hand in hand in front of the Brethren.

I think Hume would go for it. He's always on about reaching an accommodation with the two traditions and we can guarantee that he will tell the Taigs to stay indoors and watch on TV the loyal Brethren walking along the Queen's Highway, while we knock the skulls off those who get in the way.

Mo, we have done this before. Our only concern now should be that nothing we will say or do will damage the British cause, which is to maintain the Union at all costs.

Of course Bertie will be disappointed but Fianna Fáil had their chance in `69 and blew it. Me, I'm looking forward to the All Ireland final, cross border relationships, eh Mo?

Yours,

Ronnie.

 

Labour fails first test



BY MICHEAL MacDONNCHA

Those Irish republicans and nationalists who dared to hope that the New Labour government might provide a new direction in Anglo-Irish relations have been outraged by the appalling performance of the new regime as it failed miserably in its first big test.

While republicans were always conscious of the disastrous record of British Labour governments in relation to Ireland they were entitled to expect that Labour would display fresher thinking and a more pro-active approach than the Tories. Sinn Féin did cautiously welcome the latest position of the Tony Blair government regarding Sinn Féin entry to talks. Gerry Adams acknowledged that the British government had taken up positions which are in advance of the last government.

In a key paragraph in his 25 June response to the British position Gerry Adams said that the situation ``on a whole range of issues of democratic and civil rights, which effect the day to day lives of nationalists, requires urgent attention. This is critical to building confidence.''

And how did the Labour government proceed to build confidence? Five days before Gerry Adams issued that statement British Secretary of State Mo Mowlam, RUC Chief Ronnie Flanagan, Security Minister Adam Ingram, and `Independent' Parades Commission chairperson Alastair Graham had reached a consensus that Orange feet should march down the Garvaghy Road. As John Hume put it pithily on Tuesday they had agreed that the solution to the problem on the Garvaghy Road was the problem itself - the Orange march.

`Consensus' is the important word in the leaked 20 June document. Despite all of Mo Mowlam's painful-to-watch protestations to the contrary the key decision had been made before she set out on her round of talks with Orangemen and nationalist residents. The document clearly describes the British government's ``negotiating brief'' as ``finding the lowest common denominator for getting some Orange feet on the Garvaghy Road''.

Mowlam claimed that the document looked at options but the entire document is based on the consensus as outlined. Most of it deals with how to get this result through negotiations if possible, how to present the negotiations publicly, the need for favourable media coverage of the final decision. Only one short paragraph is devoted to `other options'. This is highly revealing as it says ``a ban on the march with compensating measures for the Orangemen would not be excluded from the negotiations''. So the nationalist community on the Garvaghy Road was granted the courtesy from the British government that its demand would not be off the talks agenda.

That, it seems, was as near as the British came to taking an alternative decision. There was no question of them facing down Orange bigotry and unionist intransigence. They followed the pattern or all previous British governments. The British regime in the North - the Northern Ireland Office, the British Army and the RUC - was on automatic pilot and headed in the unionist direction it always takes. Turning off the automatice pilot, giving a new direction to British policy, would require real political will from Westminster. On the evidence of last weekend that political will is not there.

Despite having a huge majority in Parliament the Labour government behaved last week no better than the Major administration whose dependence on David Trimble's unionists became notorious towards the end of its term of office. It has deployed the rhetoric of reconciliation and even-handedness while implementing a policy that has reinforced sectarianism and continued the old pro-unionist agenda. On 2 November 1995 An Phoblacht opened its pages to Mo Mowlam who contributed an article which spoke of a ``shared journey towards mutual trust'' and a ``new foundation of trust and confidence''. Policing, she said, ``needs action to ensure that both communities feel equally treated''.

Look at those statements in light of the capitutlation to the threat of another unionist revolt such as happened last year. Measure them against the implementation of the Drumcree decision by massive British army and RUC force deployed against a small defenceless nationalist community.

Gerry Adams speaking at a Belfast press conference on Tuesday said that the leaked document was evidence of ``a planned betrayal of the Garvaghy Road by this British governmewnt''. He said:

``As an Irish republican I am not surprised by this British government's approach. British Secretaries of State come to this part of Ireland to defend British interests. British policy which lies at the heart of this conflict is based on the union and the union is founded on the unionist veto.

``After Tony Blair's pro-union Belfast speech I warned that the same officials working under Major are still making and implementing policy under Blair. They are still working to an old script. They are still giving the same bad advice and still pursuing a security/military agenda.''

It should not be forgotten that the present crisis has come about because of the unwillingness of the Orange Order to sit down and talk face to face with nationalist residents' groups. Their attitude of exclusion is echoed by the British government in the talks process with its refusal to recognise Sinn Féin's mandate and to treat its voters on a par with all others. Last weekend Orange and unionist intransigence was rewarded again.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has come under flak from John Bruton for stating that the Orange march should not be forced down Garvaghy Road. Yet again Bruton's disastrous position on the Six Counties has been highlighted. But the support nationalists seek from the Dublin government was expressed by Breandán MacCionnaith on 2 July:

``I get the impression that the Taoiseach realises that as the leader of nationalist Ireland he has a duty to all nationalists in Ireland, and he has a particular duty to those nationalist communities such as ours that are bearing the brunt of unionist and Orange domination.''

On Wednesday when Leinster House reassembled for the final two days' sittings before the recess, Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghin O Caoláin called on the government to give a lead to create progress out of the present crisis situation in the Six Counties. He said:

``The government carries a heavy responsibility to give a lead on two fronts. Firstly they must strongly represent the Irish national interest, and the rights of nationalists in the Six Counties, in the face of a British government which has outraged Irish opinion. In yet again conceding to the threat of violent unionism the British Labour government has carried on the shameful tradition of all its predecessors.

``Secondly the government needs in a thoughtful and intelligent way to apply itself to seeking international support for the right of people in the Six Counties to equality.

``The betrayal of nationalist communities by Mo Mowlam demonstrates most starkly the need for equality which we in Sinn Féin, in our approach to rebulding the peace process, have clearly identified as essential to progress.

``How can the British government which made these decisions declare itself to have no selfish strategic interest? The Irish government must provide the counter-balance.''

The Sinn Féin TD also made a call that Leinster House should remain in session during the present period of crisis in the Six Counties.

``In the present situation it is unacceptable that this legislature, which has just been elected, should this week be adjourning for all of three months. This House should remain in session for another week and there should be an early recall well before the proposed 30 September resumption. Both on the serious situation in the Six Counties and the other pressing issues which we face the legislators are failing the people if they adjourn for this prolonged period.''

 

IRA operations/young people riot

Plastic bullets fired indiscriminately



In Derry on Sunday evening young people challenging the RUC at Butcher Gate were attacked, with upwards of 1000 plastic bullets fired. Witnesses described seeing the RUC firing indiscriminately into the crowd, with most of the injuries occurring before the serious rioting took place. Nine were admitted to Altnagelvin Hospital with plastic bullet injuries. Some 30 others, injured but too frightened of arrest to seek hospital treatment, were treated in first aid houses. Others went to Letterkenny Hospital in Donegal.

One young lad of 16 was accidentally injured by a huge stone thrown by another young person. But it was no accident when eight RUC men dragged him away and kicked and beat him senseless. Left with a fractured skull, a broken jaw, and shattered facial bones amongst other injuries, he was on life support for some time afterwards. Four people are seriously ill and one may lose an eye. An eyewitness described seeing one man not involved in any rioting shot in the eye. ````The side of his face was completely torn away, and he seemed to just slump to the ground.'' Several others sustained serious head injuries. As usual most of the injuries were above the waist, in direct contravention of the rules governing the use of such lethal weapons.

Councillor Cathal Crumley called again for an immediate and complete ban on the use of plastic bullets. He said, ``The RUC fired more plastic bullets on Sunday in Derry than they did in the whole of their confrontations with Loyalists last year. ``

To further humiliate the nationalist community, the RUC and British Army worked throughout the night to seal off the City Centre, blocking all access to it except via Shipquay and Ferryquay Gates with huge concrete-filled skips welded to every gate. Traders were outraged - streets traders at Magazine Gate rammed the blockade there with a vehicle before the concrete set and temporarily re-opened access. The atmosphere in Derry was electric. People, denied access to their own city centre, milled around outside in angry groups, talking to their neighbours. Older people remembered the pre-Civil Rights days with outrage, commented with contempt on the prospects of the SDLP in any future election, and said ``No ceasefire ever again'' to any republican within earshot. Once again the city could be identified from a distance by clouds of black smoke rising on the horizon.

 

North Belfast erupts



By Mick Naughton

Hundreds of masked youths placed barricades across all the major road arteries and engaged scores of RUC and British army patrols during some of the heaviest rioting seen in North Belfast for 20 years.

Areas such as Ardoyne, New Lodge, and the Bone saw sustained petrol bomb attacks leaving several armoured personel carriers burnt out. Last Sunday night one was completely burnt out at the top of Brompton Park in Ardoyne and later dragged away before another suffered a similar fate on the Antrim Road. In scenes reminiscent of the Hunger Strike period of 1981 crates of petrol bombs were ferried up to be hurled at plastic bullet firing RUC squads. These were forced to retreat in many areas such was the ferocity of the attacks. In some cases whole stretches of what once were busy roads were abandoned by the British forces unable to contain the determined rioters.

The Oldpark area resembled a war zone with bed springs being pressed into service as makeshift shields to protect the nationalist youths. Hundreds of plastic bullets were fired, roadways littered with their shell cases. Late on Sunday evening one RUC armoured vehicle got impaled on iron pilings being used as a barricade, its crew forced to flee as petrol bombs zeroed in. Following intense petrol bombing the RUC and British patrols left the streets.

`Snatch' squads, which earlier had been active, were forced to withdraw as shots were heard. A blast bomb and a rocket propelled grenade were also fired. Shielded from fusilades of plastic bullets behind hijacked vehicles the youths kept up their attacks for a three day period.

Meanwhile Sinn Fein activists attempted to stop the rioting explaining to the young people that it suited the British to contain the youths in their own areas and so damage their own communities.

At meetings held in Ardoyne and the New Lodge on Tuesday evening crowds assembled for future protests heard how many of the youth had acted with commendable courage and restraint.

``Some of them are not angels,'' remarked one woman, ``but they are a credit to our communities for taking on the might of the British Army and RUC and forcing them out of our districts, just like they did back in the early 1970s.''

 


Armagh riots

On Sunday nationalist youths hijacked vehicles in different parts of Armagh while the RUC and British army set up roadblocks on entrances to the city centre.

Later in the evening further trouble broke out in English Street and the RUC fired plastic bullets. Two youths were hit and treated by local firemen before going for further medical attention. Trouble continued into the early hours of the morning.

 

IRA engages Crown Forces


With tension rising across the North IRA units engaged the British armed forces in many areas of the Six Counties using a variety of weapons and tactics.

In the first IRA attack following the forced Orange march at Garvaghy Road a Volunteer opened fire with an AK 47 assault rifle from the corner of Artana Street in the Lower Ormeau area of South Belfast.

The target was an RUC patrol sitting on the nearby bridge over the river Lagan. Five shots hit an armoured personnel carrier in the centre of the bridge. The attack was recorded by a BBC television crew filming nearby.

Later that evening across the river in the Short Strand gunfire was directed at another Crown Forces patrol operating on the Newtownards Road. Only the heavy armour on the personnel carrier prevented casualties.

Shortly after this another South Belfast ASU swung into action firing 20 shots at British riot squads attempting to move into the Markets area beside the city centre.

The first Crown Forces casualty was a female RUC member shot by the IRA's East Tyrone Brigade.

The RUC member, who is from the Portadown area, was hit in the face on Monday morning while sitting in an armoured car after a Volunteer calmly walked up to it and opened fire with a shotgun. The attack took place in the centre of Coalisland beside the heavily fortified RUC barracks.

This tactic was repeated in the Garvaghy Road area of Portadown in the early hours of Tuesday morning, when a masked man opened fire hitting his RUC target on the leg and arm. Heavy rioting was taking place at the time.

This was also the case in Armagh City when two IRA Volunteers opened fire on an RUC patrol late on Sunday night. 15 shots were fired as the RUC operated a roadblock in English Street just before midnight. Return fire was reported, and later this same roadblock came under intense petrol bomb attack.

Part of the huge £20 million overall cost to the British government was the result of a daring attack on a train near Lurgan on Sunday when nine masked men boarded it and set it alight. All five carriages were completely destroyed. Another train was partially burned in Newry station on Tuesday. Buses too were targeted. Fifteen have been confirmed as being torched and at an average cost of £120,000, financial costs are soaring, particularly after British government buildings were destroyed in Newry.

Continuing their statement documenting the IRA's Belfast operations the Belfast Brigade said that dozens of its Volunteers also took part in attacks in North and West Belfast.

In North Belfast prior to a rocket attack in the Hallidays Road area of the New Lodge three RUC members had an extremely lucky escape when an ASU from the Ardoyne area scattered an RUC mobile support unit making its way up the Crumlin Road. Details of the shooting later emerged showing how close the 20 shots were. One bullet went through one RUC man's riot helmet, another ripped into a flak jacket and one smashed into a radio microphone attached to another flak jacket. The RUC returned fire but failed to hit anyone.

Later a Volunteer opened fire at a British soldier at the junction of Woodvale and Crumlin Roads. He had been continually firing plastic bullets at young people. Fifteen shots were directed at him, this action was again recorded by Independent television news pictures.

And while this was taking place a lone Volunteer fired one round at an RUC member in position on Alliance Avenue.

Thirty minutes later 20 shots were fired at the RUC deployed on the Oldpark Road. Again, while the RUC returned fire no one was injured.

Later on Monday night as loyalists opened fire into Ardoyne two loyalists were hit as the IRA returned fire. One loyalist was later admitted to the causality unit of a nearby hospital. The loyalists had been engaged in the petrol bombing of a nationalist home.

In West Belfast two joint British Army/RUC bases came under grenade and rifle fire as 20 shots were fired into New Barnsley's Henry Taggart barracks. A grenade was also used, hurled at one of its lookout posts. A mile away the Woodbourne base at the bottom of Lenadoon Avenue was the scene of an improvised grenade attack, with 15 shots also being directed at it.

Further down the Falls Road close to the Grosvenor and Springfield Roads 20 shots were fired at British forces putting a checkpoint into place. Despite return fire all Volunteers in this operation moved out of range, returning safely to base.

GUE-NGL-new-Jan-2106

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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