19 August 2004 Edition

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Remembering the burning of Bombay Street

Marie Moore and Nellie McAuley, mother of Fian Gerard McAuley, shot dead in 1969

Marie Moore and Nellie McAuley, mother of Fian Gerard McAuley, shot dead in 1969

The 35th anniversary of the burning of Bombay Street was marked by a special Mass in Clonard Monastery, West Belfast, on Sunday 15 August.

Around 400 people, including relatives of 15-year-old Fian Gerard McAuley, who was fatally shot by unionist paramilitaries while protecting Catholic homes in Waterville Street, packed into the monastery to remember the hundreds of families who lost their homes during the sectarian pogroms of 15 August 1969.

During the Mass, Father Gerry Reynolds read out extracts from the Clonard Monastery Chronicles, kept by priests from the monastery, telling how trouble flared in the Clonard area and how there were fears that the famous church building would be burned.

Trouble erupted across the Six Counties in 1969 following an Apprentice Boys parade in Derry and the Battle of the Bogside.

Disturbances flared in the Clonard area on 14 August, when intense street battles led to the burning of homes in Catholic Bombay Street, when a unionist mob armed with petrol bombs and sticks came from the loyalist Cupar Street area.

Catholic homes were also set on fire by loyalists in Conway Street, Kashmir Road, Clonard Gardens and in Cupar Street.

Around 1,500 Catholic families were left homeless as a result of the sectarian pogroms.

Bombay Street was rebuilt the following year, aided by local donations and contributions from the US, and with the free labour of local volunteers.

The Chronicles state that "this is a day that no one in Belfast will ever forget".

Fr Reynolds said that "remembering the burning of Bombay Street should move us to do all we can to right that wrong. With us there should be no acceptance of ethnic cleansing."

Speaking afterwards, Rita McAuley, a sister of Gerard McAuley, paid a tribute to the organisers of the special Mass. "It's nice to think that after all these years that he is remembered in such a fond way," she said.

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