11 September 2003 Edition

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Mechanisms of exclusion


SECTARIANISM isn't experienced in the soundbite of distinct events. For the northern nationalist, the current pogrom against Catholic families living in a mixed area of North Belfast, the failure of the PSNI to protect them, the continuing wrangle within the Ulster Unionist Party and the imposition of the new International Monitoring Body are all aspects of the same reality.

In Deerpark Road, unionist paramilitaries from Glenbryn are brutally determining that Catholic families will not be allowed to share access to housing beside Protestant neighbours. For the Irish News, the pogrom could be understood in terms of a new UDA "brigadier'' in North Belfast.

"William John Borland (33) nicknamed `Bonzer' was last night identified as the new UDA leader in the north of the city and was accused by security sources of being behind a series of sectarian attacks against Catholic families living in the Deerpark Road area,'' said the Irish News.

Borland is believed to have taken over the UDA in the area following the conviction of Andre Shoukri for possession of a handgun earlier this summer. Borland and Shoukri were both jailed for extortion and UDA membership in 2000.

An attack on Tuesday night on the home of a Catholic mother and her 15-year-old autistic daughter was just "the latest attack in a campaign of sectarian intimidation against Catholic families,'' said the Irish News.

The woman said her home had been attacked eighteen times since June. Her neighbour was forced to flee from her home last week. As vans were being loaded with the family's possessions, a brick was hurled from a passing car at a Catholic man, Matthew Montgomery, hitting him in the face. The assailant had shouted sectarian abuse at his victim.

Within hours of the woman leaving her home, another Catholic, a 23-year-old bride-to-be, announced she would not be moving into her Deerpark home. "I was due to move after the wedding but I won't be. I am now stuck with a house I'll never be able to sell,'' she said.

The partner of a leading unionist paramilitary who is currently in jail has been delivering threats to Catholic families, arriving on their doorsteps to tell them to get out of the area. The woman has also taken an active part in the violence accompanying the demands for Catholics to leave their homes. Several eyewitnesses described seeing her smashing Catholic owned vehicles parked in the street and yelling "Fenians Out''.

An elderly Protestant Deerpark resident, Jane Thompson has condemned unionist paramilitary attacks against her Catholic neighbours and described their actions as fascist. "I am ashamed to be Protestant,'' she told The People; "this is the way things started in Nazi Germany - with people being picked off one by one.''

The pensioner said that Protestant families who have rejected the unionist paramilitaries' campaign of sectarian hatred have been targeted themselves. "Now they're trying to get us out because we have sided with our neighbours and showed them support,'' she said.

The 83-year-old's daughter, Julie Macrea, who has lived with her mother since she became disabled following a spinal injury, blamed the PSNI for leaving residents vulnerable.

"It's sickening, really sickening and we are left feeling so frustrated. These people are nothing but thugs and they're getting away with it,'' she complained. Residents have repeatedly reported a lack of response by the PSNI to their often-frantic telephone calls for help during sectarian attacks.

"Where the hell are the forces of law and order?'' demanded the editorial of The People. "Time and time again the police were called to Deerpark but only showed up when it was too late. There has been virtually nothing in the way of a watch on the area across a week. It's no wonder loyalist mobs have felt free to act how they please and as casually as they like. No one has been there to stop them. The policing of this situation to date has been disgraceful''.

It is clear that the identities of those orchestrating the attacks are well known to the PSNI, but to date no one has been arrested. However, if the PSNI is short on action, it is less reticent with its opinions.

The sectarian attacks were simply "part of an attempt by Borland to reclaim territory '' `security'sources told the Irish News. But Susan McKay of the Tribune exposed the traditional unionist excuse of Catholic `encroachment'into Protestant `territory'with a truly stunning revelation.

"A recent study showed massive overcrowding of nationalist areas in North Belfast with up to 220 persons per hectare living in Ardoyne, compared with 17 per hectare in Glenbryn,'' wrote McKay.

"The reality is, nationalists are desperate for housing. There are huge waiting lists and people are willing to move into areas that are quite dodgy, just to get a home,'' Rab McCollum of the Ardoyne Focus Group told McKay.

Meanwhile, "news of a long running dialogue between Ulster Unionist politicians and the [unionist] paramilitaries emerged, in anticipation of Saturday's crucial Ulster Unionist Council meeting,'' reported the Newsletter.

It's no doubt cheering for northern nationalists to see that unionist paramilitaries can take time out of attacking Catholic homes in Ardoyne, if only to offer advice to David Trimble and the Ulster Unionist Party. But, sadly, the political preoccupations of the UVF have yet to impact on the UDA.

According to David Ervine of the PUP, the UVF leadership was telling the UUP "as loudly as it can'' to sort itself out. Ervine went on to say that dialogue with unionist paramilitaries had been "instigated by the politicians'' for "the right reasons''.

Within the UUP, the pro- and anti-Trimble factions were still arguing about the best way to thwart the Good Friday Agreement and its promise of power sharing and equality. Prior to the UUC meeting, David Trimble told Ciaran McKeown of the Newsletter that matters could be dealt with ``if it were merely a matter of policy or tactics''.

While David Trimble and his supporters hope to subvert the Good Friday Agreement softly and not so softly from within, Jeffery Donaldson and his cohorts want the Agreement decisively overthrown. In other words, Trimble hopes for unionist rule by default, Donaldson dreams of it written in tablets of stone.

But, while the UUP leader feared political ambition might also be playing its part, Trimble "would not speculate on whether a straight takeover bid was the real motivation behind the recurring rows'', said the Newsletter.

In the event, Trimble achieved neither a decisive victory nor stunning defeat by Donaldson's dissidents. By setting aside the question of disciplinary action against the three MPs, Trimble secured a marginal victory in support of unity and a call for members to accept party decisions. With 443 votes as opposed to 359, Trimble could claim a majority of 55.2%.

The UUP leader immediately called on the dissidents to withdraw their threat to split the party, but Donaldson responded by declaring their position remained the same: "we won t take the whip'' he proclaimed. A refusal backed by UUP veteran John Taylor.

Announced on the eve of the UUC meeting vote, the details of the International Monitoring Body had been designed to strengthen Trimble's hand. The IMB, invented as a sop to anti-agreement unionism, had been further manipulated to suit Trimble's agenda. Consequently, the initial pretence of a nationalist element within the operation of the body was subsequently eroded.

The British government announced the appointment of Commander John Grieve, former head of the London Metropolitan's `anti-terrorist'squad, John Alderdice, Alliance Party member and former speaker in the Stormont Assembly and Richard Kerr, a former deputy director of the CIA and British `terrorism'expert.

Joe Brosnan, a former secretary general of the Dublin government's Justice Department was also appointed, but it has already been indicated that he will have no say in any matters relating to the north.

"As a concession to the Ulster Unionists,'' writes Rosie Cowan of the British Guardian, "only the British members will judge whether politicians are honouring their commitments to the Good Friday Agreement.''

On behalf of the Dublin government, Brosnan will accept responsibility without any significant authority to influence events. In other words, Dublin's role has been reduced to rubber-stamping any British agenda.

Trimble welcomed the panel and urged his critics to drop their opposition to the IMB - "now that it was clear that Dublin could not interfere in political matters''.

"Monitoring will not be a magic wand,'' said the UUP leader, but it does herald the "establishment of a workable exclusion [from Stormont] mechanism,'' he said.

Sectarianism isn't experienced in the sound bite of distinct events. For the northern nationalist, the current pogrom against Catholic families living in a mixed area of North Belfast, the failure of the PSNI to protect them, the continuing wrangle within the Ulster Unionist Party and the imposition of the new International Monitoring Body are all aspects of the same reality. They are all mechanisms of exclusion designed to shore up the continuing operation of a sectarian state.

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