4 July 2002 Edition
Drumcree decision welcomed
Sinn Féin's Dara O Hagan has welcomed the Parade Commission's determination to reroute the Orange Order's march to Drumcree away from two predominantly nationalist areas of Portadown. It was the only logical decision, she said.
"I think it is becoming increasingly clear to people that the position of the Orange Order is increasingly tenuous. You have a situation where the Orange Order will not speak to the residents of Garvaghy Road and are refusing to speak to the Parades Commission to put their case," said O'Hagan.
Describing the decision as 'fair minded', a spokesperson for the Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition welcomed the Parades Commission's decision. He pointed out that the decision still allowed members of the Orange Order to exercise their right to freedom of assembly along another less contentious route.
Criticising recent actions by David Trimble, the spokesperson continued: "Once again, we have seen the First Minister publicly acting as an advocate on behalf of the Orange Order. "Mr Trimble should bear in mind that his ministerial oath of office requires him to act impartially on behalf of all citizens in the north and not just on behalf of members of a secret society to which he belongs."
Meanwhile, Church of Ireland Primate Robin Eames has appealed to Orangemen to act peacefully and within the law at Sunday's Drumcree march. The church leader called for "a complete and absolute absence of violence.
"I appeal to the Orange Order in Portadown to act with extreme dignity and caution following their attendance at the service at Drumcree, to abide by the law and to recognise the awesome responsibility on any organisation which engages in public protest in Northern Ireland at this time."
Mini-Twelfth reinforces Siege of Short Strand
The small nationalist enclave of the Short Strand was put under virtual military curfew last Monday night, 1 July, as thousands of Orangemen and their bands paraded around the district.
The annual Mini-Twelfth always brings tension and curfew with it but this year, on the back of two months of a loyalist siege of the area, the tension was heightened.
Thousands of Crown force personnel moved in and ringed the area with a wall of steel at the Mountpottinger Road and Albertbridge Road, along which the loyalist parade was to proceed.
However, the RUC/PSNI moved a strong force into the Short Strand itself.
These forces took up aggressive positions using cameras on the tops of Land Rovers to keep residents under surveillance.
Despite the tension, the parade passed off relatively peacefully.
Among the bands taking part in the loyalist parade were uniformed UVF bands. The UVF in East Belfast is instrumental in the ongoing siege of the Strand.
"This area has been put under curfew to facilitate an Orange Parade," said local Sinn Féin Councillor Joe O'Donnell. "The district is surrounded and you would think the people of the Short Strand were the aggressors in this situation and not thousands of Orangmen."
A delegation of residents, accompanied by Joe O'Donnell, travelled to Downing Street on Wednesday to hand in a copy of a report, titled Short Strand Under Siege, compiled by residents.
Parades Commission blamed for trouble
Frances McAuley, spokesperson for the Springfield Residents Action Group, has blamed the Parades Commission for the trouble that erupted on the Springfield Road on Saturday 29 June.
"The decision of the Parades Commission to allow the controversial Whiterock Orange march onto the Springfield Road on Saturday 29 June with no restrictions was a reward for the Orangemen's hardline attitude," she said. "With all the recent events around interfaces in Belfast, this decision was sheer madness. People were angry and when the RUC/PSNI refused to withdraw from the area this anger spilled over."
During the parade to 2,000 Orangemen, accompanied by 15 bands, emerged through the 'peace line' gate at Workman Avenue at about 3.15pm on their way to Whiterock Orange Hall. Among those taking part were the Grand Master of Ireland, Robert Saulters, and the Democratic Unionist MP for North Belfast, Nigel Dodds.
The area had been tense in the run up to the parade as nationalist residents were hemmed in behind RUC/PSNI and British Army lines. Their movements were restricted while the sole restriction placed on the Orange Order was that no music was to be played between the junction of Ainsworth Avenue and the Springfield Road.
After the parade, the RUC/PSNI refused to withraw from the area, fueling local anger, and residents who were prevented from returning to their homes were taunted by RUC/PSNI members with dogs.
Rioting erupted after those stewarding the situation on the nationalist side withdrew. The RUC/PSNI, who were in the area in force and who had two water cannon as well as dog squads on standby, moved in and attacked local people indiscriminately.
Denying nationalists had started the trouble, Frances McAuley told An Phoblacht: "The RUC/PSNI did not pull out of the area even though we had asked them to do so. They just antagonised residents. After using the water cannons for ten minutes against local people the RUC/PSNI then issued a warning that they were going to use them. It was disgraceful. As always happens, nationalist residents were hemmed into their homes like prisoners; it was yet another year of oppression for residents in this area".
An Phoblacht has been told that later on that evening the RUC/PSNI again attacked local people. One young man needed hospital treatment. We have been told that the RUC/PSNI members involved in this attack were under the influence of alcohol.
Trouble after Glengormley parade
After an Orange Order march through Glengormley on the northern outskirts of Belfast last Tuesday, 25 June, loyalists attacked and damaged a number of homes and cars belonging to Catholic residents.
Residents knew nothing about the parade until a large force of RUC/PSNI Land Rovers moved in and began blocking roads at 6.30pm to facilitate the march.
Up to eight bands, including a UVF band from Carrickfergus, marched in the parade, which was allowed to proceed unhindered through the nationalist Church Road area.
They played sectarian tunes and bandsmen shouted sectarian slogans at a group of nationalists who had gathered to protest.
Up to 300 or 400 followers, wearing UVF and UDA T-shirts, followed the parade and were involved in incidents when missiles were thrown at nationalist homes. One woman received a leg injury when she was struck by a stone.
Sinn Féin's Briege Meehan, who sits on Newtownabbey Council, said that "allowing this march to walk up to nationalist homes was a recipe for disaster; the behaviour of those at the parade was also disgraceful and many of them were wearing UVF and UDA shirts."
Sinn Féin councillors Briege and Martin Meehan will lead a delegation of local residents to meet the Parades Commission. Meanwhile, it has emerged that Glengormley Orange arch could be taken down before 12 July, pending the judicial review taken by a number of Glengormley residents.
Vandals attack graves again
For the second time in two weeks, loyalists have desecrated Catholic graves in Carnmoney cemetery. On Friday night 28 June, over 20 graves were vandalised with headstones and celtic crosses smashed or pushed over.
One man, whose son is buried at the cemetery, described the attackers as "scum", saying "my son's grave has been attacked before, it is a disgraceful act, just heartbreaking. People come here to visit their dead and this is what meets them, broken headstones and vandalised graves".
Parish priest Father Dan White said Friday night's attack was the worst he had seen and said that desecrating graves that are sacred to people resulted in society "losing its humanity".
Meanwhile, at a meeting of Newtownabbey council on Monday 1 July, Sinn Féin's Briege Meehan's proposal that security guards be deployed in the cemetery to stop loyalist attacks on headstones received unanimous support.
Two weeks ago, a number of Catholic graves were attacked, including a baby's, while in May the grave of 20-year-old Daniel McColgan, shot dead by loyalists at the beginning of the year, was desecrated.
Nationalist attacked in West Belfast
Two men suffered serious injuries when they were attacked by loyalists as they walked home along the Stewartstown Road on Wednesday night, 26 June. The pair were accosted near the Black's Road interface, where they were stopped by a gang of loyalists in a car.
In the same area, on Sunday morning, 30 June, a number of homes and cars in the Horn Drice area of Lower Lenadoon were attacked. Windows were broken and cars vandalised.
According to Sinn Féin's Gerard O'Neill, there had been a stand-off between a group of loyalists and local nationalist youths earlier on the night but it ended about 4am.
Homes paintbombed and shot at
One Protestant and six Catholic homes in the Cliftondene and Oldpark area of North Belfast were badly damaged after coming under attack by a crowd of loyalists on Wednesday night 26 June.
Well known members of the UDA from North and West Belfast had put up UDA flags in preceding days.
A local resident told An Phoblacht the flags were erected in full view of the RUC/PSNI, who did not intervene. The resident also said that Johnny Adair was among the loyalists.
The homes were attacked with red, white and blue paint and windows were broken as loyalists attacked from the Westland Estate just after midnight.
One resident said: "I was woken by the sound of glass breaking and discovered paint bombs had been thrown through the window and had destroyed furniture in my living room I also heard shots outside my home."
Sinn Féin councillor Eoin Ó Broin said UDA elements were intent on raising sectarian tensions. "To have loyalist come into the area and force their symbols upon this community is wrong. To attack residents due to their objections to these displays of naked sectarianism is appalling," he said.
On Thursday 27 June hundreds of local residents held a meeting, attended by the RUC/PSNI, in the Deanby youth centre, to discuss recent loyalist attacks and activitiy in the area. A number of residents walked out of the meeting after accusing the RUC/PSNI of doing nothing to stop the attacks on their homes.
Teenager viciously attacked in Larne
A 16-year-old Catholic boy remains in hospital after being attacked by loyalists in Larne on Sunday 30 June. The youth suffered a fractured skull and other injuries after he was beaten by a group of loyalists as he made his way home along the Old Glenarm Road, near the town's Seacourt estate.
Over the last two weeks, 18 attacks on nationalist homes and property have been carried out by loyalists determined to drive Catholics out of the Larne area.
"It's ethnic cleansing, there is no other way to decribe it," said one resident. "The UDA want all Catholics out of Larne and they won't be happy until they have achieved it."
Couple escape bomb attack
A nail bomb was thrown at the Bingnian Drive home of a couple in their 40s at around 10pm on Saturday 29 June. The device bounced of the front window and landed in the garden.
A group of teenagers who saw the attack said a carload of men drove into the street and one got out and lobbed the bomb at the house.
The occupants of the house had their windows broken last year in a loyalist attack and details on the family were contained in documents found in a raid on the Stoneyford Orange Hall.
Tyrone reps meet with Parades Commission
West Tyrone Sinn Féin Assembly member Barry McElduff says the continued failure of the Parades Commission to address concerns of residents in Newtownstewart and Castlederg over the "yearly nightmare" of the marching season formed the basis of a frank meeting between Sinn Féin representatives and leading officials of the Parades Commission.
Derg Councillor Charlie McHugh led the delegation, accompanied by Omagh Councillor and Sinn Féin Constituency organiser Seán Begley to the meeting at the Parade's Commission's headquarters in Bedford Street in Belfast on Wednesday morning, 26 June.