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16 July 1998 Edition

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Three little boys were dead

by Laura Friel

Rain poured down as the three small coffins were lowered gently side by side into a single grave. Richard (10), Mark (9) and Jason (8) Quinn were buried in St Mary's Cemetery, Rasharkin as they died, together.

At Requiem Mass at The Church of Our Lady and St Patrick in Ballymoney, Bishop of Down and Connor Patrick Walsh said the blame for the boys' murders lay not only with the killers, but also with those who had incited violence with their words. ``For all too long the airways and the printed page have been saturated with noises, strident, harsh, discordant noises, carrying words of hatred, of incitement, of recrimination....The weapons of hate filled words inevitably fuel weapons of murderous destruction.'' said the Bishop.

The children's mother, Chrissie Quinn, their father John Dillon, grandmother Irene Quinn and surviving brother Lee, were comforted by family and friends as they made their way from the chapel to the graveyard. The silence was broken only by outbreaks of sobbing.

Chrissie Quinn, a Catholic from a mixed background living in the predominantly loyalist Carnany Estate, Ballymoney, had feared her home would come under attack. In the days running up to the 11th night bonfires, Catholic families on the estate had received sectarian threats and bullets through the post, telling them to get out. Chrissie had told her three sons, Richard, Mark and Jason to come back from the bonfire early because she was expecting trouble. Her eldest son Lee was staying the night at his grandmother's home in Rasharkin.

After separating from her estranged husband, also a Catholic, Chrissie had reared her sons as Protestants, simply ``to avoid the hassle''. The three boys attended the local Protestant school. Just hours before their deaths, they had helped other children in the estate build the 11th bonfire, but their attempts to assimilate were meaningless to the bigots who singled them out for attack.

Fearing for her family's safety, Chrissie had stayed awake until 3.30am but death came less than an hour later. A petrol bomb thrown through a downstairs window set the house ablaze. In the smoke filled building, Chrissy had struggled to the children's bedroom but finding the beds empty believed they had escaped. A neighbour heard one child shout ``I'm in a corner,'' another child cried out that his feet were burning. There was a loud bang and the house was engulfed in flames. Three little boys were dead.

 

Murders part of widespread campaign



The triple murder of three young brothers in Ballymoney, County Antrim in the early hours of Sunday morning 12 July, was the most devastating attack of the many launched by sectarian gangs against Catholics since the beginning of this latest anti-Catholic pogrom began.

This tragedy could have been repeated many times over. At least 144 homes in predominantly Protestant housing estates have suffered sectarian firebomb attacks. 155 other Catholic-owned buildings have been damaged in similar attacks.

Carrickfergus, County Antrim, has suffered a large concentration of these attacks. Fourteen Catholic families in this area have had their homes petrol bombed in the past week and have been forced to leave. Houses in the Glenfield and Sunnylands estates have been petrol bombed in a carefully planned campaign. The Catholic owners of a guesthouse on the promenade have left their business of ten years after being attacked with petrol bombs on two consecutive nights. Two families in Greenisland, just outside Carrickfergus, and five families in Antrim town have also been forced to leave their homes following petrol bomb attacks by loyalist mobs. One family of eight was petrol bombed and then attacked by loyalists as a furniture van arrived to remove their belongings and in Larne, bricks have been thrown through the windows of isolated Catholic homes.

In Whitehead, County Antrim, ten petrol bombs were thrown at Ulidia Integrated School on the Islandmagee Road. Several windows were smashed and damage was caused to the interior of the building but most failed to ignite. At the start of the week attempts were made to burn down St Nicholas's, the local Catholic primary school.

One family narrowly escaped serious injury in the Ballycastle estate in Coleraine when a petrol bomb was thrown into the front living room of their house engulfing the room in flames as the family was going to bed. As a result, the family has been forced to leave the estate.

A pub and two businesses were firebombed in Kilkeel. A house was severely damaged and a family escaped serious injury when a blast bomb was thrown through the window of a house at Enniskeen in Craigavon causing extensive damage to the kitchen.

Two men and a youth were injured when a loyalist gunman fired six shots at them in the early hours of Saturday 11 July in the Ligoniel area of North Belfast. In another gun attack in Bushmills, County Antrim, loyalist gunmen opened fire on the car of a Catholic massgoer as he left Bushmills Parish Chapel.

A Protestant family were driven out of their home by a loyalist mob in the Protestant Eastvale estate in Dungannon. Dana Averall, her husband and their 2-year-old son were in bed when a 16 strong loyalist gang burst through the front door and beat Mr Averall about the head. Dana Averall said they were targeted because she has Catholic friends and did not donate to a door-to-door collection in support of the Drumcree protest.

 

Drumcree protest losing support



A few hundred Orangemen and protesters were all that were left at Drumcree Church in Portadown on Wednesday morning 15 July. The call by some senior Orangemen and their chaplains for the order to end its siege of the residents in the Garvaghy Road seems to have been heeded by most of the Order's members.

Their call came within hours of the brutal murder of the Quinn brothers in Ballymoney. Up until then the order had been gathering nightly in their tens of thousands with other loyalist protesters to attack the crown forces at the barricade with guns and blast bombs, and terrorise the people of the nationalist Garvaghy estate.

This attack of human decency has not afflicted all of the brethren and a split has developed within the Order. This was best illustrated on Monday 13 July when the ultra-orange Joel Patton heckled the Order's Armagh chaplain William Bingham in Pomeroy. His invective led to scuffles between his supporters and those of the Rev Bingham.

 

Murder, mayhem, the media and Drumcree



by Laura Friel

Speaking directly into camera, a visibly shocked Denis Murray, BBC Ireland Correspondent, described the murder of the three Quinn boys as ``racist''.

In the measured tone of the professional journalist, Murray, like many of his colleagues, has reported hundreds, perhaps thousands of ``sectarian attacks, sectarian shootings, sectarian killings'' but for him, the brutal slaying of three children who cried out as they were burnt alive, was significantly different. For a moment Denis Murray perceived sectarianism through the eyes of Northern nationalists, momentarily he acknowledged their fear and revulsion, perhaps for an instance he understood the significance of Orangemen marching through beleaguered nationalist communities like the Garvaghy and Ormeau Roads.

For over a week the media had colluded in portraying protesting Orangemen at Drumcree and the besieged residents of the Garvaghy Road as two sides of the same sectarian coin. It was a difficult balancing act but many commentators met the challenge with gusto.

To create the appearance of equilibrium, mass intimidation by the Orange Order had to be played down, Orange protests must be described as ``peaceful'' and Orangemen identified as ``law abiding'', loyalist violence must be depicted as peripheral, separate and regrettable. ``The leaders of the Orange Order may be militant in their demands... but they are, on the whole, peaceful God fearing men, seemingly far removed from the thugs who have hijacked their cause.''

Ed Moloney writing in the Sunday Tribune was more honest, ``The Orange hierarchy continuously condemn the violence and urge only peaceful protests, but everyone knows that's only for the sound bites. Violence made the difference in 1996 and it will be the crucial factor this time as well.''

On the other hand the role of residents on the Garvaghy Road, who in reality only wanted to be left to pursue their daily lives in peace, had to be played up. In most cases this simply collapsed into marginalisation of the residents' position through the vilification of their spokesperson Breandan MacCionnaith. An editorial in the Daily Telegraph dismissed MacCionnaith as `` a small town agitator with a criminal record.'' The Orange Order wasn't holding the country to ransom, argued the Telegraph, but Breandan MacCionniath, puffed up with importance by a ridiculous ruling by the Parades Commission, was being allowed to thwart the wishes of the British, Irish and American governments.

The Mail editorial went even further, ``some basic facts need restating. The Orange Order may seem sectarian, bigoted and splattered with yobs in sashes'' but the real enemy is the IRA. The Mail deplored the fact that British troops were being deployed against ``overwhelmingly law abiding people''(Orangemen) while concessions were being made to ``former terrorist bombers like Breandan MacCionnaith''.

In an article appearing in the Irish Times on Saturday, Deaglan de Breadún, acknowledged the sectarian onslaught against northern nationalists but concluded ``A bad week then, overall for Protestant Ulster. A community with huge potential and much to offer the world has, through the violence of some and the obduracy of others, become almost a pariah in media terms,'' de Breadun continues, ``meanwhile, nationalists - more politically sophisticated, as always - have successfully maintained an image of victimhood....with their greater media savvy and political cohesion, the nationalists are well out in front.'' Exactly which nationalists is de Breadun referring to? Is it the 107 Catholic families who have been intimidated out of their homes, or the Catholic owners of the 114 properties and businesses which have been attacked and destroyed?

Meanwhile, as pointed out by Tom Collins of the Irish News, the BBC was bending over backwards to avoid identifying a series of Orange parades as `illegal' (which they were). Illegal parades by Orangemen became ``impromptu'', marches which ended in rioting became ``unofficial'' while the illegal blockade and mass intimidation of the nationalist village of Dunloy was described as ``peaceful''.

By mid week a consensus was emerging within the media, in the wake of loyalist violence, the answer to the Drumcree stand-off could be found in the residents allowing the Parades Commission's decision in their favour to be set aside. In the last few years the Garvaghy residents had endured mass loyalist intimidation, brutal assaults by the RUC and now they were to be harangued into submission by the media.

As the evidence that Orangeism and sectarian violence were inextricably linked became overwhelming, a kind of journalistic schizophrenia set in with descriptions of events on the ground becoming increasingly at odds with the analysis offered. On the back page of the Sunday Times, Vincent Kearney likened the Drumcree standoff to a scene from Apocalypse Now. ``Every so often,'' he wrote, ``the crowd sings a rousing chorus of the Orange anthem, the Sash, followed by a rendition of the Billy Boys, which includes the line `we're up to our necks in fenian blood'. Up on the hillside, like a Greek chorus, thousands of loyalist spectators munch crisps and burgers and enjoy the scenes below. Some are horrified by the violence. Most cheer....'' Kearney records one masked protester, ``You won't stop us on Monday night,'' he shouts, ``then we'll kill you and the Fenian bastards behind you.'' Yet, on the front page Kearney is back to the `two sides of the same coin' analysis in which the `militancy' of the Spirit of Drumcree leader Joel Patton is offset by the `lack of compromise' by Breandan MacCionniath.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, with the deaths of three small children, the media's analysis was rendered not only untenable but obscenely so. The media smokescreen lifted, momentarily exposing the nationalist nightmare for all to see.

When a prominent protagonist in the Drumcree stand-off, William Bingham, the Orange Order County Armagh Chaplain, publicly posed the question ``Where are we going?'', there seemed a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. ``The verbal attack on people who think differently than we do - is that Orangeism? If it is I would have no part of it. The violence we have seen - if that is Orangeism then many of us here would have no part of it.....After last night's atrocious act, a 15-minute walk down the Garvaghy Road by the Orange Order would be a very hollow victory, because it would be in the shadow of three coffins of little boys,'' said Bingham.

A moment's reflection by an Orange leader created sufficient space for those whose moral courage is more tempered by political expediency. David Trimble told the Orangemen of Portadown ``to come down off the hill,'' Robin Eames reiterated, Orangemen ``should leave the entire Drumcree area''. Predictably Ian Paisley remained in a state of denial. It had nothing to do with Drumcree, Paisley insisted.

By Sunday lunchtime the old agenda was being resurrected. ``I've two words to say to both sides,'' Seamus Mallon told John Humphries of the BBC's ``On the Record'', ``Go home''. Where exactly did the SDLP deputy imagine the Garvaghy Road residents were?

Meanwhile the BBC defended its decision to broadcast coverage of Twelfth `Celebrations'. Dismissing nationalist viewers complaints the BBC claimed ``a large number of people wanted and expected to see the parades.'' On Crumlin Road an Orange march passing nationalist residents holding black flags chanted ``three, nil, three, nil''. No one was there to report it.

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