28 June 2001 Edition
Tension rises in Portadown as Drumcree looms
``In the last six weeks, since the loyalists began gathering stuff for their bonfire, there have been 110 sectarian incidents along the `peace line' at Corcrain Road,'' says Breandán MacCionnaith of the Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition.
MacCionnaith was speaking to An Phoblacht just hours after the latest attack at the `peace line' when a blast bomb exploded, on Monday 25 June, in the back yard of a house evacuated just two weeks ago by the young woman who lived there. Four petrol bombs were also lobbed over the fence just minutes before the blast bomb was thrown and it is believed these may have been used to lure residents out into the open before the blast bomb attack was launched.
The woman, whose house on Obins Drive was the nearest to the `peace line', had had enough of the constant nightly attacks on her home, so she moved. Her neighbour, an elderly man, is also about to move out.
The `peace line' at Corcrain Road and Obins Drive is a 40ft high metal structure, an eyesore that doesn't even do its job of protecting vulnerable Catholic families from Corcrain Road loyalists. There is a gap between the `peace line' and the wall at Corcrain that allows the loyalist attackers to attack the wire mesh fence at the bottom of the `peace line'. ``Their aim'', says newly elected Sinn Féin councillor Brian McGeown, ``is to weaken the wire and force their way through''. To that end, the loyalists have been dropping tyres down into the gap and setting them alight and the Sinn Féin man thinks it is only a matter of time before the fence is breached.
As it took the RUC about 40 minutes to arrive at the scene of Monday night's bomb attack, the residents of the area don't hold out any hope of any help from them to protect their homes or indeed their lives.
On two other occasions over the weekend, loyalists forced their way into the Obins Street area through Curran Street and attacked nationalist homes.
Nationalists have been urged to be, ``extra vigilant'' in the days leading up to the annual Orange march at Drumcree.
Mass Mobilisation call on Springfield Road
Residents of the Springfield Road in West Belfast are calling for support for their protest against an Orange march through the area on Saturday afternoon, 30 June.
The mass mobilisation call came after the Parades Commission again decided to allow the parade, which has been the subject of nationalist anger for years.
Last year, a UDA colour party was allowed take part in the march and was ignored by both the RUC and the march organisers.
In previous years, nationalists protesting against the parade, which enters the Springfield Road at Workman Avenue, have been attacked and beaten by the RUC.
In the lead up to this year's march, tension in the area has been high, with loyalists attacking the area on an almost nightly basis.
The worst of these attacks happened last Thursday, 21 June, when between 50 and 100 loyalists came through the Workman Avenue gate and attacked residents. The RUC, who were positioned at the gate, moved against nationalists who were gathered further down the Springfield at Pollard Street, thus allowing the loyalists to come right out onto the Springfield Road.
In the clashes that followed, residents' spokespersons John McGivern and Frances McAuley were injured. McGivern was hit on the side of the head by a brick while McAuley suffered a fractured skull when she was hit with have a breeze block.
However, this year the parades decision has only fuelled the tension.
In a split decision, the Parades Commission ruled that the parade, consisting of the Whiterock Orange Lodge, could proceed along Workman Avenue and up the Springfield Road, an entirely nationalist route.
The second part of the decision bars the loyalist bands and `followers' from this route and instructs them to follow an alternative route along Ainsworth Avenue and onto the Shankill and Woodvale Road.
Speaking to An Phoblacht, Frances McAuley ridiculed the Parades Commission, saying ``for years they refused to accept that this alternative route was feasible now they are sending the bands along it. They should have done the right thing and banned this parade from the Springfield altogether given that the area they walk through is almost 100% nationalist''.
And in a threatening reaction to the ruling, leading Belfast Orangeman Dawson Baillie warned: ``The people involved will not be taking this lying down and they are quite angry.''
DUP hypocrisy exposed
DUP member Jim Wells, who was convicted for his part in a protest against a St.Patrick's Day parade in Kilkeel, County Down, will not face disciplinary action from his party.
Wells, a senior DUP figure, had pleaded guilty to using threatening and abusive or insulting words or behaviour likely to provoke a breach of the peace. He was fined £300 and ordered to pay £221.32p costs. Also convicted waere four others, including DUP member Ruth McConnell, who contested the local government elections in Newry and Mourne. She was given a two-year conditional discharge.
Wells' conviction came the day after the DUP threatened internal party discipline against Strabane councillor Thomas Kerrigan, whose crime was to shake the hand of a Sinn Féin councillor. Kerrigan, newly elected as vice-chair of Strabane District Council, wished newly elected chair Ivan Barr well and said he looked forward to working with him.
On Wednesday, 20 June, Social Development Minister Maurice Morrow walked out of the launch of a North-South report after expressing concern that he might be photographed beside Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew.