10 September 1998 Edition

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Portadown - a nationalist nightmare

by Sean O'Tuama

The sectarian cauldron which is loyalist Portadown, the birthplace of Orangeism two centuries ago, again erupted in violent hatred against its small nationalist community on Saturday 5 September.

A ten year old boy received hospital treatment following prolonged attacks on nationalists throughout the day and night while a Catholic-owned shop, the third in three days, was burned to the ground.

The trouble began at 3pm after a `Loyalist Right to March' rally, addressed by former LVF intermediary Kenny McClinton, broke up with over 500 loyalists descending on the car park of High Street Mall to attack nationalists with bricks, bottles and fireworks, and waving placards which read: `No Taigs In Portadown'.

Nationalists fled from the town centre and from the playing fields adjacent to the car park to escape the onslaught. Other nationalists gathered at Woodhouse Street, fearing that the nationalist area of the town was to be invaded. When the RUC eventually arrived, around 4.15pm, no arrests were made.

After a loyalist parade later that evening two RUC men were injured by a blast bomb and three men were arrested. Rocks and bottles were thrown at Catholic homes in the Obin's Avenue area during the march.

Earlier in the day, around 5.30pm, two Catholic businesses were set on fire including the Slumbertime shop in William Street which was completely destroyed in the attack. A hoax bomb was left in Woodhouse Street at around the same time in an attempt to stretch the RUC prior to a loyalist parade near to the Garvaghy Road area. A Catholic owned bookmakers was also targeted, but the swift action of staff in pulling down the metal shutters prevented any serious damage.

The previous Thursday 3 September two other Catholic-owned shops were damaged in arson attacks. Sinn Fein Assembly member, Dara O'Hagan, appealed at that time for unionist and community leaders in the town to work to stop the intimidation against nationalists.

Since the Drumcree standoff in July the Garvaghy Road residents has been besieged and attacked on a nightly basis. Many Catholics have been assaulted and spat upon whenever they venture into the town centre. Most now stay way from the area for fear of attack. The events in the town centre over the past two Saturdays confirms this campaign as an attempt at `ethnic cleansing'.

The Orange Order extended its sympathy to the families of the two RUC men injured in the violence on Saturday night, 5 September, whilst ignoring the suffering of the nationalist residents.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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