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31 July 1997 Edition

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Loyalist mob targets Lower Ormeau

By Mick Naughton

The drunken mob of loyalists who pulled down the Lower Ormeau Road community's festival banner last Saturday evening were assisted by the RUC and British soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment according to residents of the area. It was yet another sectarian attack which left residents hospitalised and some badly injured.

The loyalist violence began shortly before 7pm Saturday 26 July when around two dozen loyalist bandsmen from Donegall Pass, some wearing `The Son's of the Conquerors' uniform and carrying beer bottles marched to where the Lower Ormeau's banner was hanging. Their intention was to tear it down.

Local residents prevented them and the loyalists ran away only to return with iron bars, bricks and bottles.

According to eyewitnesses over 200 loyalists left what PUP spokesperson Ernie Purvis called, ``the biggest band competition of the year in Belfast,'' to launch the attack on the Lower Ormeau.

A series of vicious attacks then ensued, leaving a local nurse requiring five stitches for a serious wound. Others were also injured by the loyalist bandsmen who were assisted by a large force of RUC and RIR as they pulled down the festival banner.

RUC members taunted residents saying the banner, reading `Fáilte go Féile Iochtar Ormeau', was now being put up in the Ivy bar.

``They firstly tried to break windows in McClure Street,'' said residents spokesperson Gerard Rice, ``then they went for the banner. About 200 bandsmen attacked this area which is trying to have a festival for all, but obviously the sight of a banner, saying `Failte' is not understood by these drunken loyalists.''

Local Sinn Fein Councillor Sean Hayes, who was injured by bricks as he tried to remonstrate with the RUC and loyalists, spoke of his frustration at their violent actions. Hayes said that the RUC and RIR formed up on the nationalist side of the railway bridge, giving the loyalists freedom of movement and let them take the banner.

``This is an almost impossible position for the people of this area. We are having an enjoyable festival but people are asking how we can have any hope of a peaceful future given the sectarian and partisan behaviour of the crown forces.

``By their actions they ensured that these loyalists were able to attack this small area at a time when we are approaching the possibility of the Apprentice Boys march on 9 August and when tension is rising.

``This combined loyalist assault on nationalist homes has not been lost on this community. Are these the same bands who, `simply play hymns' as they pass through nationalist areas.''
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An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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