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27 June 2002 Edition

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Parades Commission ignores Springfield residents

The Parades Commission has outraged Springfield Road residents after it again gave the go ahead for an Orange parade through the nationalist Springfield Road in West Belfast on Saturday 29 June.

Residents are seeking an urgent meeting with the Commission, especially as that body ignored an initiative put forward by the residents in an effort to ease tensions ahead of Saturday's march.

Residents' spokesperson Frances McAuley also accused the Parades Commission of rewarding the Orange Order, which had looked on the compromise initiative with "total negativity".

"In an attempt to reach a compromise over the contentious march," said McAuley, "we launched an initiative which called on the Orange Order to reroute through Mackies Factory, which is further up the Springfield Road.

"In return, the residents offered to scale down their own protest and not oppose the June parade. Our proposals were aimed at resolving this particular problem on a cross community basis and were totally ignored by the Parades Commission, who were kept informed of all the proposals.

"After all these years and all the conditions laid down by the Parades Commission, which the organisers of the Whiterock Parade broke, the Orange Order is still allowed to come through the peaceline and march on the nationalist Springfield Road. And our willingness to reach an acceptable accommodation has also been met with total negativity by the Orange Order."

As well asking the Orange Order to reroute through Mackies, the residents asked the Orange bands not to play music until they reached the roundabout at the West Circular Road roundabout. The residents asked the parade organisers not to march past the Ardoyne shops and that the Orange Order voluntarily reroute its 12 July parade on the Springfield Road. The residents also called for a scaling down of the massive Crown forces' presence on the Springfield Road, which is highly provocative.

Last year, leading loyalists stewarded the parade when it broke the conditions laid down by the Parades Commission. The Orange Order also brought busloads of Orangemen through the Workman Avenue gates onto the Springfield Road.

Tension had been high in the area last year after the RUC, in full riot gear and in force, sealed off the area before the parade.

In June 2000, loyalists in full paramilitary uniform and carrying UDA/UFF flags were allowed to march unhindered by parade organisers. On the same day Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly received stitches after he was hit with a baton by a member of the RUC

"This is the Orange Order's reward for their intransigence, and with all the recent events around interfaces in Belfast this decision is sheer madness," said Frances McAuley.

Sinn Féin councillor Fra McCann described the decision as a "slap in the face" for local residents.


Coat trailing thuggery


According to the media, the Orange Tour of the North March that took place through North Belfast on Friday 21 June passed off relatively peacefully.

The media focused on an incident at the junction of North Queen Street and Duncairn Gardens, when nationalist youths threw missiles over the 'peace wall' as the Orange parade was going up Duncairn Gardens.

The media reported the words of unionist politicians Nigel Dodds, Jim Rodgers and Nelson McCausland, who all accused republicans, Sinn Féin and the IRA of orchestrating the trouble.

None of those interviewed was prepared to accept that this Orange parade brings trouble with it every year that it is held.

This year, the tension was high in an area that has seen a sustained UDA campaign of violence against the nationalist community of the New Lodge Road.

Indeed, nationalists railed against the Parades Commission, which allowed the Tour of the North to march along the length of Duncairn Gardens past Catholic homes to Edlingham Street, where it entered Tiger's Bay.

The Parades Commission could just have easily directed this parade into Tiger's Bay at its junction with Brougham Street and North Queen Street and took so much tension out of the situation.

Instead, the Orangemen were allowed to march up Duncairn Gardens and the trouble erupted.

As part of their so-called retaliation for the stone throwing directed at them, the loyalists attacked eight vulnerable homes belonging to Catholics in Duncairn Gardens. One of these belonged to a 74-year-old woman with a heart condition. The loyalists, not content with kicking in the door, entered the house and wrecked it. The terrified woman was treated at the scene before being admitted to hospital.

In its edition of Saturday 22 June, The Belfast Telegraph reported on the trouble under the headline 'Peace reigns after march violence'.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, a 38-year-old Catholic man who had been abducted from the Oldpark Road was found, close to death, in Beechnut Place not far from the loyalist Shankill Road.

In the attack, the loyalists dropped breeze blocks on the man, who was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital suffering from serious head and abdomen injuries as well as broken arms and legs.

At about 5am on Saturday morning, a row of Catholic-owned homes on North Queen Street were attacked. A loyalist mob cut two panels out of a protective fence before attacking the houses. A number of shots were also fired in this incident.

Later that day, at 1.30pm, a taxi driver was attacked by loyalists who tried to hit him with a meat cleaver. The man was in his cab on the Crumlin Road, outside the Mater Hospital, when loyalists in a car pulled up and blocked him in.

One of the loyalists came to the driver's side of the cab and struck out with the meat cleaver. The cleaver hit the door of the car and taxi driver drove at the loyalists, who ran off.

The loyalist violence spilled over into Sunday afternoon, when two nine-year-old girls, Samantha Kennedy and Colleen McKenna, were targeted. The pair had left the Yorkgate cinema and were on their way home when a group of loyalists from Tiger's Bay approached them and asked what religion they were. The loyalists, who were aged around 12, threw stones and bottles at the girls, who ran off into the New Lodge area.

At the time of the incident an RUC/PSNI vehicle was in the vicinity yet none of those on board intervened. The girls escaped with minor abrasions in the assault but they were terrified.

More serious trouble erupted in the area at about 8pm that evening. Loyalists came out of Tiger's Bay and attacked North Queen Street. When nationalists came out to confront the loyalists, the RUC/PSNI moved in and forced the nationalists back along North Queen Street.

The loyalist mobs, advancing behind the RUC/PSNI lines, continued attacking the nationalists and it was at this stage that a loyalist tossed a pipe bomb. The device exploded near the nationalist crowd, but still the RUC/PSNI did nothing.

Indeed, the RUC/PSNI denied that a bomb had been thrown, but Sinn Féin recovered the remains of the bomb which they put on show at a press conference on Tuesday 25 June.

The nationalist crowd, angry at the RUC/PSNI's facilitating of the loyalist attack, attacked the RUC/PSNI.

In an attempt to calm the situation, Sinn Féin's Gerard Brophy approached the RUC/PSNI and asked them to retreat to the junction of Duncairn Gardens and North Queen Street. In turn, he said he would get the nationalists to move back. In response, the RUC/PSNI man in charge ordered his forces to charge the nationalists and in the fighting that erupted, a dozen plastic bullets were fired. A number of people, including 16-year-old Joseph Hardy, were hit.

Hardy was hit in the chest, contrary to the rules governing the use of these weapons, which say they must be aimed below the waist.

As darkness fell, at about 10pm, a 67-year-old man out walking his dog on Duncairn Gardens was viciously assaulted by loyalists using a meat cleaver and a golf club.

The loyalists drove up alongside the man in a white Hyundai and jumped out. They brandished the cleaver in front of his face before hitting him across the back of the head and shoulder. As he lay on the ground, the loyalist struck him with a golf club before getting back into the car and escaping. The vehicle was followed into the Lower Shankill area.

At a press conference dealing with the weekend violence, Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast, Gerry Kelly, said it was his opinion that the trouble was sparked off by the Tour of The North march and that the organisers must bear some of the responsibility.

Kelly accused the UDA of being responsible for the bomb attack and the shooting at North Queen Street.


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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