13 July 2000 Edition
RUC stand idly by
This past ten days or so of loyalist disorder have shown again, as if further evidence was required, the necessity for a completely new policing service in the Six Counties.
As the North plummeted into chaos at the behest of the Orange Order, the RUC effectively stood by and let it happen. Whereas peaceful nationalist protestors were met two weeks ago on the Springfield Road with batons and departed with heads split and cautions pending, a senior RUC officer this week spoke of his reluctance to ``manhandle'' loyalist protestors.
Whereas nationalists are hit and arrested first, loyalists are photographed, according to the RUC, to be interviewed about their activities at a later date.
Whereas plastic bullets have been the lethal weapon of choice against nationalists and republicans, loyalists this week were confronted with water cannons.
The RUC this week allowed children and teenagers to block roads. Nationalists willing to try to get through have been threatened with arrest. The extent of the shutdown across the North that paralysed businesses and confined many to their homes was to a great extent dictated by the unwillingness of the RUC to act against loyalists, a less than subtle collusion.
Nationalists in vulnerable areas subjected to sectarian attacks have complained again about undue delays in RUC responses to calls for assistance.
And on the eve of the Twelfth, these even-handed protectors of British justice allowed loyalist gunmen to blast hundreds of rounds in the air at bonfires across Belfast, unhindered.
Today, Sinn Féin publishes a 100-page report detailing the failure of the British government's Policing Bill, which makes a mockery of the Patten Commission report and, if passed in its present format, will be, in Gerry Adams' words, ``wholly unacceptable to nationalists and republicans'' (see Page 9).
This week, Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson should look long and hard and draw lessons from the relative inaction of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Those lessons should be applied to the Policing Bill, while there is still time to save us all from a shoddy piece of legislation which, in its present form, will sustain inequality and injustice and fail to achieve a force that can enjoy the trust and respect of all.
One thing is for certain. The RUC must go.
`Here we stand, we can do no other'
BY LAURA FRIEL
There's a scene in the film of HG Wells' `The time machine' in which at the sound of a siren, normal everyday activities stop and the entire populace moves as one body, walking slowly in a trance-like state towards great metal doors in a cliff face.
In the film, the doors open and some pass into the hillside, where they become fodder for creatures of the dark who live on human flesh. Their fate appears inevitable. It is how it has always been. In a society built upon the foundation of untimely death, it is simply the price to be paid for their version of paradise.
Last Saturday night, in a field adjacent to Drumcree church, watching hundreds of Orangemen and their supporters standing before a great metal barrier erected by the British Army to thwart their determination to march through the nationalist Garvaghy Road, HG Wells' tale came suddenly to mind.
Apart from a few young loyalists, who gladly cavorted in front of the cameras, the rest of the crowd stood, orderly, still and beyond the occasional cheer, in silence. Earlier they had knocked on the great metal door, with their fists; later, with sticks and stones and bottles and bricks.
They had beaten the air with their drums. They had split the silence with strains of `We are the Billy Boys', but there was no one to answer and the door remained firmly shut. Now the hollow ring of metal being pounded seemed only to engulf them further in the political vacuum towards which they had been so inextricably drawn.
And the creatures of the dark, up to their necks in fenian blood, were prowling within their ranks. A loyalist flag amongst the Orange banners signalled a paramilitary presence. The media peered through its camera lenses and binoculars, hoping for another glimpse of UDA mass sectarian killer Johnny Adair and his Shankill gang.
A bored cameraman urged loyalist elements within the crowd, ``come on lads play with us''. A teenager carrying a Scottish flag stumbled through razor wire across ploughed land. Another `mooned' at the media, but it was all too tame for the predators amongst the press.
A few days earlier, Adair and scores of other tattooed loyalist toughs had jogged down Drumcree hill under the banner of the `Shankill Road UFF, 2nd Batt. C. Coy'. Later, in a nearby housing estate, Adair watched as masked gunmen from the LVF fired a volley of shots in a loyalist show of strength.
The Orange Order had filed for and been granted permission for marches up to Drumcree every night but on Monday, no one had turned up. Local loyalists had preferred to attend a tribute to the late Billy Wright. Friday's march was called off in deference to the funeral of Ballymoney motorcycling champion Joey Dunlop.
But nothing could hide the fact that the turnout for Orange protests in Portadown had been dismal all week. And now on Saturday night, as the light faded, the shadowy figures at Drumcree fell into increasing silence before slowly leaving the hill. In a few hours, the ritual would begin again.
In St John's Catholic Chapel on the edge of the nationalist Garvaghy Road estate, the sound of a distant drum signalled the start of another Orange Order march as Sunday morning massgoers concluded their act of worship. The chapel had already been encircled with concrete boulders and razor wire, lines of British Army vehicles stood in the car park.
The graveyard at the rear had been screened from the view of anyone walking along the route to Drumcree Church, as if even dead fenians might enrage a passing Orangeman. At the entrance to the estate, a concrete and razor wire reinforced British Army road block prevented drivers and pedestrians from leaving or entering the area.
In the chapel grounds, informal groups of residents waited and watched, anxious to see how many Orangemen would march to the hill that day. Their calculation was simple; the fewer the marchers the less likelihood of trouble.
In the last four years during the Orange marching season, more than 550 families across the North have been left homeless after being forced to flee from their homes following attacks and intimidation. Eleven people have been killed as a direct result of Drumcree protests.
In 1998, three small boys were burnt to death during a loyalist petrol bomb attack on their home. In 1999, a 59-year-old Protestant grandmother who was married to a Catholic died in a pipe bomb attack at her Corcrain home.
In all, the homes of around 73 families, all Catholics or people in mixed relationships were attacked by loyalists and 55 other buildings have been damaged. According to official statistics there has been over 280 loyalist attacks, including 15 gun attacks over a week, including one killing, and over 300 petrol bombings. A further 941 petrol bombs have been seized.
Two Catholic primary schools in Newtonabbey and an integrated secondary school in Carrickfergus were fire bombed last week. A number of Catholic-owned businesses have also been targeted by arsonists.
Earlier this week, two nationalists walking home in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast narrowly escaped death and injury during a sectarian murder bid by masked loyalist gunmen. The gun jammed after two shots were fired at close range. During protests in support of the Orange Order last week, over 88 vehicles were hijacked and a further 358 damaged.
On the Garvaghy Road, a local resident recalls a recent telephone conversation. ``My daughter lives in a mixed area on the outskirts of Portadown,'' she tells us. ``She said I live in the safest part of the North.''
A group of women around her laughed nervously but without conviction. They had all read that morning's Sunday newspapers and the reports of a loyalist threat to ``kill a taig a day'' if the Orangemen don't get down the Garvaghy Road.
The area was swamped with thousands of British soldiers and a contingent of RUC, the trenches had been dug, the barricades were up but residents remained skeptical. Political expediency can change from day to day.
Last year, lines of riot clad, helmeted and visored RUC riot squad officers had faced nationalist residents standing in the chapel grounds. This year, only a handful of RUC officers, still dressed in their riot fatigues but without their ``robocop'' head gear mingled amongst the crowd.
Later, in the field adjacent to Drumcree church, be-suited RUC press officers chatted to the world's media. An RUC officer took time out to greet international observers, hands were shaken and polite words exchanged. A Canadian observer, who has monitored events at Drumcree for the last three years, expressed amazement: ``Did you see that?''
By midday on Sunday, outside St. John's chapel, 2,000 Orangemen were marching past on their way to Drumcree church. Neat and orderly, rank after rank of Orange Order members passed the barb wired encirclement.
Bands had been limited to a few accordion players. There were no loyalist colour parties as seen on the Springfield Road. A group of loyalists carrying a home made UFF banner walked alongside the parade.
A handful of supporters shouted sectarian abuse. ``Get back into your chapel, you fenian bastards,'' a woman shouted at residents. Another threatened ``we'll burn your chapel down''.
Across the road, a known loyalist from Dungannon stood with a small group of women, one wearing a red, white and blue umbrella hat. ``You'll not be walking the Garvaghy Road McKenna,'' one of them shouted.
An Orangeman, unable to contain himself any longer, broke from the silent ranks of his Order. ``Get home and wash yourselves,'' he bawled at residents standing in the chapel grounds. Another Orangeman whooped with glee in solidarity with his colleague's racist remark.
An hour later and the focus was back at Drumcree. Harold Gracey, the district master of the Portadown Orange Lodge, stood in front of the British Army barrier to address the crowd, apparently as immovable as the concrete filled bunker behind him.
Last week in calling for action, Gracey claimed Orangemen were ``on their bellies''. A few protests later and the Portadown master reassessed his claim. ``The Protestant people are now off their bellies and on their knees. Soon they will be on their feet. I didn't call for violence, I called for protest. I am saying to our people, continue.''
The crowd clapped and cheered as Gracey accused Protestant church leaders of ``corrupting our young people with ecumenism''. It was an ``ecumenical conspiracy,'' he said. Brid Rodgers, the local SDLP minister should ``go back to Donegal where she came from'', said Gracey.
Philip Black of the Long March Committee condemned the Belfast Agreement, where ``terrorists are rewarded with positions in government while churchgoers are denied their right to return from their worship along a traditional route''.
Sectarian segregation in a one-party state is the Orangeman's vision of paradise, and loyalists like Johnny Adair are lurking in the shadows, waiting to unleash sectarian terror in a vain attempt to restore it to them.
In HG Wells' story, the enchantment is broken and the people, released from the inevitability of their past, begin constructing a new society free from the violence of the human flesh eater.
At Drumcree, the Orange Order and its supporters protested under flags bearing the slogan ``Here we stand, we can do no other''. It is a lie. There are alternatives. They involve dialogue, tolerance, understanding, equality and power sharing.
It's time for Orangemen and their fellow rejectionists to wake from their self-induced trance and start working with the rest of us towards building a better and brighter future for all our children.
Under an Orange Arch
BY LAURA FRIEL
There were three of them, standing alone under an Orange arch at the furthest end of the Garvaghy Road. Naomi, Judy and Nicole, young women from Minnesota, who had travelled thousands of miles to this small corner of Ireland to act as observers during the Orange marching season at Drumcree.
A hundred yards further down the road, a joint British Army/RUC checkpoint was stopping cars driving into the nationalist enclave. British soldiers watched the International Observers monitoring them. Conscientiously, the three women noted down every incident.
A particular car was giving some cause for concern. It had driven past twice but the driver had been different. The first driver, corpulent and moustached, had leered out of his open window. The vehicle slowed down to almost a stop as it approached two of the observers. The occupant stared into their faces, then making some kind of gesture with his right hand, he drove off at speed.
Overhead, the Orange arch, decorated with cannons, sailing ships and symbols of salvation, Jacob's ladder, Christ's cross and the flags of unionism, the Union Jack and a loyalist red hand, could offer neither shelter nor comfort on that lonely stretch of road.
Across the street in a row of terraced houses, the occasional chimney smoked, the only sign of life as the light faded and the sky threatened more rain. Judy lit a cigarette. ``I don't normally smoke at home,'' she smiles. ``Neither do I,'' says Naomi.
Another car raced past at speed, the squeal of its wheels momentarily filling the evening gloom. ``It's so unpredictable,'' says Naomi. ``Even when it's quiet it's still tense.'' A car drives past with a couple and three children. ``There's a sense of relief when you see a family,'' says Naomi.
Judy is a social worker attached to a secondary school. ``I like a challenge,'' she says. Judy is concerned about the spate of teenage suicides that have recently occurred within the Garvaghy Road community.
``I've met some of the young people here,'' she says. ``They're quite different from teenagers at home. More grown up, much more serious. I guess the situation robs them of their youth.''
Among the many international observers from all parts of the world, there are currently over 160 American and Canadian observers in the Six Counties, working in flash point areas. For many, like the three women from Minnesota, it was their first time in Ireland. For others, it has been an annual commitment over a number of years.
Pat Doherty is a veteran observer on the Garvaghy Road. ``It's a straightforward civil rights issue,'' says Pat, and one quite familiar to the American people. In the 1950s, when six black schoolchildren were to enrol in a formally whites' only secondary school, the white supremacists and segregationalists in Little Rock, Arkansas, brought the state to a standstill.
``The KKK threatened violence much the same as the loyalists have done here,'' says Pat. The state governor rang President Eisenhower and told him he couldn't guarantee the children's safety if integration was forced on the state.
``Eisenhower was a military man. He said don't worry and dropped thousands of troops into Arkansas overnight,'' says Pat, ``It was just a matter of facing them down. It'll be much the same here, I guess.'' The showdown was repeated by Kennedy in the early `60s in Mississippi and Alabama.
``Irish Americans have become significant power brokers within the American political system,'' says Pat, ``both within the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. The nomination of vice presidential candidates is to be announced within two weeks. Almost certainly they'll be Irish Americans.''
As for the Garvaghy Road, the tone of this year's ruling by the Parades Commission was significantly different. ``The residents have won the argument,'' says Pat. ``In the end, who can argue with the right to live free from sectarian harassment?''
Amongst the international media at Drumcree, Congressman Donald Payne of the American Black Caucus is saying much the same thing. ``It's a civil rights issue,'' says Payne, ``and the Orange Order can't hide behind notions of tradition and culture.''
A catalogue of loyalist attacks and mayhem
Several nationalists are this week lucky to be alive after being targeted in the onslaught of violence unleashed by Portadown Orangemen, who have continued to call for ``protest'' in support of their demand to march through the Garvaghy Road.
On at least two occasions, one in North Belfast and the other in South Belfast, nationalists were confronted by armed loyalists. In both incidents, those targeted managed to escape death.
However, the wave of Orange violence that has swept the North has left Catholics homeless and many others terrified in the knowledge that they were only a split second from death.
And while leading members of the UDA have been coordinating these attacks and their flags and banners have been prominent everywhere, the fact remains that the Orange Order is the guilty party. It cannot escape the blame for its actions.
Since June, loyalist paramilitaries, involved in their own internal power sttruggles, have been targeting nationalists. It is against this background that the present Orange pogrom should be seen.
AREAS WHERE ATTACKS HAVE OCCURRED
27 June. The Circus Tavern pub in North Belfast is fired bombed by the UDA.
30 June. Two members of the GAA are warned by the RUC that they are under threat from the Orange Volunteers. One of the men is from South Derry.
30 June. Hours after the threat against two GAA officials is revealed the St Oliver Plunkett GAA hall in Lavey, South Derry, is torched.
1 July. Staff in a community centre in Lurgan, County Armagh are warned of a threat against them from the Red Hand Defenders.
1 July. A lorry is petrol bombed as it is being driven along the Killylea Road near Armagh City.
2 July. Within hours of Harold Gracey's call for widespread protest, a Catholic couple were forced from their home in the Fortwilliam area of North Belfast by a loyalist gang.
3 July. Nationalist homes are stoned by loyalists in Hamilton Street in the Markets area of Belfast.
4 July. Dougan's Electrics, a Catholic-owned business in Ahoghill, County Antrim, is gutted by fire.
4 July. Later that day a couple in a mixed relationship, George O'Neill and Samantha Brookes, are forced to flee their home in Ligoniel in North Belfast. The couple criticise the RUC over its failure to assist them during the loyalist attack. The loyalists wreck the house after the couple flee.
4 July. A West Belfast black taxi is stoned at Black's Road as it travels to Poleglass. A Swiss tourist and a West Belfast mother and children sitting in the back narrowly avoid injury.
4 July. A notice calling for support for Portadown Orangemen is pinned to a staff notice board in Belfast's City Hospital.
4/5 July. For over a six hour period, residents of the mainly nationalist Hightown Road area in Glengormley, North Belfast are without electricity after loyalists cut off their supply.
5 July. A man is hit on the head by a brick thrown through his car window in Glengormley, North Belfast.
5 July. Larne brothers James and Francie Gribben are targeted by loyalists in the latest attack on their family in Sallagh Park. Their sister's home was attacked the previous week.
5 July. In a planned manoeuvre, 200 loyalists go on the rampage along Madrid Street in the Short Strand, East Belfast. Local people drive them back, but not before a number of houses are wrecked.
5 July. The latest attack on a Catholic family from Armagh City sees a petrol bomb thrown at their home. A number of loyalists are arrested and charged.
5 July. A 70-year-old Catholic priest, Fr. Brendan Mullan, has a narrow escape when his car is hijacked and burned by loyalists near the Donegall Road in Belfast. The hijackers are photographed by a freelance camera man.
5 July. A mini bus belonging to a youth group from Roden Street off the Falls Road is attacked by loyalists in Belfast City centre. Children as young as 11 are on board the vehicle at the time.
6 July. Up to 200 loyalists invade the Falls Road at the Northumberland Street `peace line'. The loyalists throw bricks and other missiles into the Falls area. In hand to hand fighting, one nationalist suffers a broken leg and other injuries when he is assaulted with iron bars. Known UDA leaders orchestrate the invasion.
6 July. A mother and her son have a lucky escape when a petrol bomb comes through the window of their Limavady home in the early hours of the morning. Limited damage is caused to the kitchen as the woman and her teenage son manage to extinguish the flames. Earlier in the week, a young man was the target of a sectarian assault in the County Derry town.
In a separate incident, a man attempting to clear an obstruction from the rood iss set upon by a gang of loyalists and kicked to the ground. The man had been on his way to collect members of his family for the funeral of a close relative. According to Sinn Féin's Malachy O'Kane, the Edenmore Road area of Limavady has been tense since loyalists saturated the road with flags.
6 July. Loyalists confront nationalists in the Whitewell area of North Belfast before attacking cars travelling along the M2 motorway.
6 July. A Catholic family is driven from their home in Kilkeel after a loyalist mob surround the house. Two RUC cars arriving on the scene are themselves targeted by the loyalists.
7 July. St Mary's chapel in Bushmills, County Antrim, is damaged by arsonists who pour petrol into the chapel before setting it on fire. Only scorch damage occurs.
7 July. A 29-year-old Catholic man is shot in the face by a 69-year-old man after he is interrupted removing loyalist flags near Clough, County Antrim. The weapon is a legally held gun. The Catholic man's friends say he took the flag down as a prank.
8 July. Two families living on the Steeples estate in Antrim town are targeted by petrol bombers. One is an elderly couple and the other a mother and her two children. Both families say they are completely shocked by their ordeal.
8 July. Sinister posters calling for a boycott of Catholic businesses are put up in the mainly loyalist Broughshane village in County Antrim.
8 July. St Macnissi's primary school near Newtownabbey on the northern outskirts of Belfast is petrol bombed. Classes and equipment are destroyed.
8 July. The nearby St Mary's on the Hill school is also attacked. Fire damage is caused to books and equipment.
8 July. A portacabin in the Ulidia integrated school in Carrickfergus is destroyed by fire.
8/9 July. Two car loads of loyalists attempt to force their way into a nationalist home on the Cavan Road in Castlederg, County Tyrone, but fail to do so. The next day, loyalist graffiti is discovered daubed on the wall of the local chapel and some homes in the Drumnabay area. Sinn Féin's Barry McElduff warns nationalists to be vigilant.
9 July. Orange protesters at Drumcree come through fields in an attempt to attack St John's chapel at the bottom of the Garvaghy Road.
9 July. A petrol bomb is thrown into the grounds of Lurgan hospital, which is in the loyalist Mourneview area of the town.
9 July. A taxi driver is blocked by a group playing bagpipes and flutes near the Loyalist Fountain area of Derry. One of the group attempts to throw a bottle at the cab but is prevented a another member of the gang.
10 July. The presbytry of St Comgall's in Bangor is stoned. Several windows are broken.
10 July. A woman whose car is attacked twice in quick succession receives hospital treatment after the incidents in Bangor, County Down.
10 July. Up to 300 loyalists try to invade the Short Strand at the Albertbridge Road.
10 July. An SDLP councillor, Oran Keenan, from Antrim town, has his car seized and destroyed after a gang of loyalists stopped him at a road block.
10 July. St Mary's on the Hill chapel in Newtownabbey is attacked by a group of loyalists using petrol and paint bombs.
10 July. A nationalist motorist is ened with arrest by the RUC after he drives through a loyalist roadblock in Dunmurry outside Belfast. The man, Pearse McCann, says that one of the protesters grabbed him by the throat.
10/11 July. The Catholic chapel on the Doagh Road in Ballyclare is twice attacked by fire bombers. Petrol bombs are thrown at the chapel itself while a hall next to the church is damaged.
11 July. A device is thrown at the Village Inn pub in Dunloy. It fails to explode.
11 July. A short while later, British Army bomb experts are called to examine a device at the Rasharkin AOH hall.
11 July. A Catholic-owned pub near Annaghmore in County Armagh is attacked by petrol bombers.
11 July. Loyalists in Portadown intimidate businesses into closing in support of their protests.
11 July. A mother and her daughter are treated for shock after their car was attacked by Orange Order protesters in Portadown. The incident occurred close to the British Army barrier at the town centre end of Garvaghy Road.
11 July. Feystown Chapel, outside Glenarm in North Antrim, is firebombed. A window in the presbytry is broken and an inflammable liquid is poured in. Substantial damage is thought to have been sustained in the blaze.
Loyalist gun attacks
Two nationalists from the Ardoyne area of North Belfast narrowly escaped death and injury when a loyalist gunman's weapon jammed. The attack took place in the early hours of Thursday morning, 6 July. Patrick Bradley and a friend were standing at the corner of Brompton Park and Etna Drive when a red Astra car pulled up beside them.
A masked man pointed a gun out of the rear window of the vehicle. One of the two nationalists jumped a wall to escape but the second man fell. At close range, the gunman pulled the trigger twice but the weapon jammed allowing the second Ardoyne man to escape.
The vehicle carrying the masked loyalist gang sped off but was seen in the area again 15 minutes later. A local resident gave chase but stopped when the car drove into the lower Shankill at Denmark Street. The vehicle was spotted again 45 minutes after the first incident in the Torrens area.
Commenting on his ordeal, Bradley said: ``It wouldn't have mattered who we were; as long as we were Catholic they were happy to kill us.''
A nationalist from the Magherfelt area was shot in the face when he attempted to remove a Union Jack flag on the Glenleslie Road near Clough in County Antrim. 25-year-old Seamus McCloy was shot with a legally held shotgun.
McCloy, a joiner, was travelling home with four other workmen when the incident took place. A second man was also injured. Following the shooting, McCloy was rushed to a hospital in Coleraine and later transferred to Altnagelvin Hospital, where his condition has been decribed as ``comfortable.
In a further attack by loyalist gunmen, a Catholic taxi driver and his passengers narrowly escaped injury when a loyalist gunman jumped out in front of the West Belfast taxi.
At 11pm on Sunday night, the taxi driver was taking two passengers from the depot to a pub in South Belfast. After coming off the Broadway roundabout, the car was travelling along the loyalist Glenmachan Street towards Tates Avenue when a number of masked men appeared in front of the taxi.
One of the passengers shouted a warning as a masked man at the rear pointed a gun towards the vehicle. The driver, fearing for his life, put his head on the steering wheel and swerved away from the men in front of his car.
A brick was thrown through the rear side window, injuring one passenger. ``Had they got us we were dead,'' said the taximan.
Hell raising in Portadown
BY FERN LANE
In Book One of that great Protestant biblical epic, John Milton's Paradise Lost, the angel Lucifer, newly cast into hell and reincarnated as Satan, considers his hopeless condition and then ``with obdurate pride and steadfast hate'' tells his cohorts ``To do aught good never will be our task/But ever to do ill our sole delight'', deciding that ``To reign is worth ambition though in hell/Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven'' and resolving to destroy the inhabitants of the newly-created Eden in bitter revenge.
Given current events, a belief that it is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven is what the Orange Order is really displaying when its mobs misappropriate the revolutionary dictum `Better to die on your feet than live on your knees'. The Order and its allies, it would seem, would rather rule the roost in a sectarian hell and burn the entire Six Counties to the ground in the process than serve the new political dispensation (although it is no Eden) as equal partners with their Catholic neighbours. What we are witnessing is the spectacle of Orangeism, of its own volition, dying on its feet.
The idea of Drumcree as the manifestation of a more generalised Protestant discontent with the peace process has entered into the political discourse of the Six Counties without any semblance of analysis of what such `discontent' is actually based upon or indeed whether it is valid. In the rush to understand the inner workings of unionism, Protestantism and then its loyalist exponents, whose psychotic cruelty knows no bounds, the question of whether this dissatisfaction has any moral legitimacy whatsoever has rarely been addressed; it has simply become a lazy way of explaining away the continuing chaos encouraged by the Order. The best that most political commentators can come up with is that the unionist community has had to tolerate the release of republican prisoners. That the nationalist community has to suffer the likes of Johnny Adair roaming the streets as part of the deal is not acknowledged.
What very few are willing to admit, from Peter Mandelson downwards, is that the discontent of the Orange Order and their paramilitary associates - and even many of those middle-class unionists who affect to sniff in disgust at the antics of their co-religionists - is based on nothing more than a sense of outrage. They are irate that those who feel themselves to be British are now expected to behave in a civilised manner towards those they see as alien and racially inferior (``a bunch of monkeys'', according to one of the Portadown brethren) and who they have traditionally excluded, bullied, abused and killed. A blind refusal to regard others, namely Catholics, as equal is the sum total of their dismay at the working out of the Good Friday Agreement, but nevertheless they expect - and, worse, are receiving from some influential quarters - sympathy for this inability to come to terms with the affront of seeing fenians in power.
Archbishop Robin Eames, for example, wrung his hands and said that he understands the `anger' of Orangemen, implying that this anger, energised by the Drumcree protest, is in itself legitimate so long as there is no violence. Even his very belated comments in the Irish Times on Tuesday have only had the effect of emphasising the Church of Ireland's moral cowardice up until now.
He could long ago have told Orangemen of the shame and ignominy they have visited on the name of Protestantism. He could have disowned all their protests and the justifications behind them without equivocation or qualification because he knows as well as anyone else of the unbridled supremacist tendencies which lie behind the demand to march without consent. He could also have pointed out the irony of a religious sect, which expends huge amounts of time and energy accusing Catholics of idolatry and slavery to their church, being engaged in the flagrant idolatry of believing that the combination of a strip of orange material and a piece of tarmac has talismatic powers upon which their very existence depends. And rather than half-heartedly telling the Orange Order that their current stance goes against their own brand of peace-loving, law-abiding christianity - an assertion not borne out by history - he could instead have told them that to use highly dubious interpretations of obscure biblical battles to justify fascist political action and sectarian violence is only a small step away from the manner in which the Nazis used Shakespeare to justify their persecution of the Jews.
Harold Gracey seems to spend his spare time scouring the Old Testament for references to anybody standing on a hill before attempting to bend them completely out of shape to serve as analogies for his own hopeless condition as he surveys the hell of his making. But the embodiment of this willingness to hand the mantle of discontent with the political system as well as the undeserved status of victim to the most recidivist elements within unionism, are to be found less in a scriptural analysis of Gracey's demented (and alarmingly ungrammatical) ravings than in the recent UDA threat to retaliate for completely fictional `attacks' by Catholics on Protestant homes. They made it up. They lied. There was absolutely no basis to their claims. But still, the threat and the reasoning behind it was carelessly recycled throughout the media - including on the main BBC news bulletins - for two days before anybody actually thought to check for facts behind the fiction. How much longer will the new cliché of `Protestant discontent' be repeated before government, church and media start to acknowledge what really lies behind it?
Newry solidarity with Garvaghy Road
Last Saturday, 8 July, Newry republicans organised an hour-long vigil in the town's Hill Street to highlight the ongoing siege of the nationalist community of Portadown's Garvaghy Road.
Local activists and supporters were joined by a contingent from London's Connolly Association, in Newry to lay a wreath at the grave of Irish patriot John Mitchel in the local burial ground of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. Mitchel was a Unitarian who was exiled following his involvement in the Young Irelanders' rebellion of 1848.
The vigil attracted huge local interest on Newry's busy market day and served to remind people that despite the Parades Commission's ruling that Orangemen will not walk down the Garvaghy Road, the residents living there are still under 24-hour siege.
Councillor Davy Hyland thanked those who attended. ``We must not forget that the siege of the Garvaghy Road has been in place for over three years,'' he said. ``Constant vigilance and alertness has been required at all times to repel the threat of invasion and intimidation. The message received at this vigil in Newry today is loud and clear. Nationalists from throughout this district are concerned and angry that fellow nationalists are still being denied equality and freedom from sectarian intimidation and harassment. We call upon the British government to end this nightmare once and for all.''
For his part, Jim Redmond, general secretary of the Connolly Association, paid tribute to Reverend Norman Hutton, minister of the Newry Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, for meeting with the group and showing them around his church. Redmond paid tribute to ``the democratic and radical Presbyterian tradition that has contributed strongly to the development of Irish republicanism. The Connolly Association's visit, by focusing on the life and times of John Mitchel and the contribution that this Unitarian made to Ireland's struggle for freedom, will assist in the development of constructive cross-community contacts.''
Australian solidarity for Garvaghy Road
By Dermot McGuckin
Around 100 republican supporters gathered in solidarity with Garvaghy Road residents at the Blarney Castle in Perth, Western Australia, on Sunday, 9 July.
A live phone link up was held so that those present could receive news from Dr. Simon Adams(international observer in Portadown and president of Australian Aid for Ireland) and Garvaghy Road resident Roisin Hamill. A petition of solidarity was signed by all present.