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15 July 1999 Edition

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Twelfth not so peaceful for nationalists

By Pádraig MacDabhaid

Despite the huge media circus surrounding the Twelfth and the constant reminders from commentators that this year's Orange parades and demonstrations were peaceful, nationalists throughout the Six Counties have a different tale to tell.

Residents of the Lower Ormeau Road, like those of the Garvaghy Road, were subject to increased military activity in their area by the crown forces which resulted in people's movements being restricted. For nationalist residents of the normally serene Upper Ormeau Road the re-routed Twelfth brought terror with community groups and local residents reporting phone calls from families preparing to evacuate their homes. ``This mixed area is being turned into a sectarian flashpoint by the Orange Order,'' said one resident.

Throughout the Six Counties, nationalists and their homes have also been subject to increased attacks over the Twelfth period.

In North Belfast, Sinn Féin councillor Danny Lavery called on community workers to use their influence to ease tensions after an increase in sectarian attacks in the north of the city in the period after Drumcree. The first of these attacks took place on Wednesday 7 July in Graymount, when two Catholic homes were set on fire. Another family in Graytmount was attacked on Friday 9 July. They had to evacuate their house on Graymount Crescent until a commercial flare was made safe.

On Saturday 10 July a family of five in nearby Glengormley narrowly escaped death after their home was fire-bombed. This, coupled with the discovery of four pipe bombs on the Carnmoney Road and the constant attacks on nationalists residents in the nearby Longlands area which have resulted in nationalist homes being damaged on a regular basis, did not add up to a quiet and peaceful Twelfth.


Mass intimidation on Ormeau Road

By Roisin Cox

The Orange Order's decision to abandon its ``traditional'' gathering in Edenderry and bring the Belfast Twelfth rally to Ormeau Park was by anyone's reckoning an exercise in mass intimidation of residents.

The 7 July decision, made after the Parades Commission decided to ban Ballynafeigh Orangemen from parading down the Lower Ormeau Road, exaggerated an already tense situation and left residents on the Ormeau facing the possibility of violence from Orangemen. The subsequent heavy militarisation and curfew of the Ormeau community added to the tension that already existed.

The Orange Order's move was attacked by politicians, community groups and residents alike while residents from the Ormeau Road, Stranmillis and Malone Roads opposed the decision.

The Parades Commission announced on 10 July that the Ormeau Park rally could take place on assurances from the Orange Order and unionist politicians that it would pass off peacefully. This despite the Parades Commission's earlier acknowledgment that the demonstration would ``exacerbate a widely held sense of intimidation across the whole Catholic community''.

Gerard Rice, spokesperson for the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community, said in reaction to the Parades Commission decision: ``The Orange Order's determination to bring their rally to the Ormeau Park has highlighted the lengths to which they are prepared to go to force their sectarian parades on nationalist communities,'' said Sinn Féin councillor Seán Hayes. ``The Order has demolished its insistence on following traditional routes for the sham argument it always was by switching its route at such short notice to suit political expediency.''

Residents' spokesperson Gerard Rice reirterated this argument: ``Tradition isn't important when it comes to pressurising and intimidating small communities,'' he said.

Although Monday's parade did pass off with relative calm, reports indicate that there was a mass exodus of Catholic families from the Ormeau Road as they feared Orange supporters might lay siege to the area.

Community groups were inundated with calls from terrified families prepared to move out of their area in the face of `Orange rule on the Ormeau Road'. Residents were also furious that the heavy military presence on the Ormeau Road throughout the end of last week was directed at them despite the fact that the threat of violence came from loyalists.


Twelfth attack on Springfield residents

By Roisin Cox

Nationalist residents of the Springfield Road in West Belfast were subjected on the Twelfth to an unprovoked attack by loyalists as they protested peacefully against the second contentious Orange Order parade through the nationalist area in three weeks.

In an attempt to intimidate the demonstrating residents, many of whom were women and children, missiles were hurled by loyalists across the so-called peace line before the parade arrived at the Springfield Road as it returned from the Ormeau Park rally. Characteristically, rather than protecting the nationalist protesters who were behaving peacefully, the RUC, dressed in full riot gear, turned to face the nationalist community.

The protest, which was organised by the Springfield Road Residents Action Group (SRRAG), was designed to highlight the nationalist community's strong opposition to a parade which annually disrupts everyday life on the Springfield Road. The contentious Orange parade, which was only allowed to continue due to conditions set down by the Parades Commission, again flouted the restrictions placed upon it.

John McGivern, spokesperson for SRRAG, said: ``Once again the Orange Order, by playing sectarian songs, broke the preconditions set down by the Parades Commission.''

He added that the heavy-handed tactics of the RUC and the attacks upon the peaceful protest were ``an absolute disgrace'' and that residents were ``furious'' at the actions of both the RUC and loyalists.



Sectarian arson attacks on churches

A Catholic priest, Fr Sean Rogan, who attended the the mother of the three murdered Quinn children last year, has described how the smell of smoke at his chapel after an arson attack reminded him of the Ballymoney attack.

One year to the day from the murder of the three Quinn children by loyalists, St Patrick's in Chapel Hill, Lisburn, suffered minor damage to the side of the building and had a stained glass window broken after an arson attack in the early hours of Sunday 11 July.

Fr Rogan, the parish priest explained: ``This day last year I got a call to attend the boys' mother Chrissie in hospital. The smell of smoke then was the same today when I was alerted to the blaze at the church by the police. It seems so ironic that this happened on the anniversary of the boys' death. One year on and nothing seems to have changed''.

On the same night, another Catholic chapel less than a mile away was attacked.

Fr Brendan McMullan was forced to say Sunday mass outside the church at St Patrick's in Derriaghy, Co Antrim, after it was severely damaged when a flammable liquid was set alight at the front door of the Chapel at 12.30am on Sunday, 11 July.

An Phoblacht has learned that a 20-year-old man has been charged in connection with the attack on St Patrick's Church in Lisburn.



St Matthew's Chapel attacked

The so-called ``quiet Twelfth'' was not so quiet for the residents of the East Belfast nationalist enclave of the Short Strand.

A group of up to 150 loyalists, most wearing purple UDA T-shirts, attempted to attack St Matthew's Catholic Chapel in the Short Strand at around 6.30pm on Monday, 12 July.

The loyalist gang attempted to enter the church but were kept back by local residents. The RUC then moved in but failed to disperse the attackers and a stand-off situation developed between the residents and the loyalist attackers.

Speaking at the scene, Dominic Corr, the local Sinn Féin representative said: ``Loyalist attacks are nothing new to our community. In particular, attacks during the marching season are a common occurrence. We were hoping that this year might be different, but this evening's incident has once again highlighted the vulnerability of our district.

``In addition, we have seen the RUC blatantly refusing to deal effectively with a serious situation. This also comes as no surprise. Tonight's incident highlights the disparity between the public portrayal of the Twelfth as a carnival day and the very different reality for many nationalists.'


RUC harassment in Newtonbutler and Lisnaskea

Sinn Féin in Fermanagh is accusing the RUC of conducting a campaign of harassment against nationalists in the county over the past week. The party has cited an incident when an RUC patrol car was involved in ramming incident with a car driven by an ex- republican POW.

According to Sinn Féin's Ruth Lynch, Kevin's sister, an RUC from the Lisnaskea Mobile Support Unit forced a car being driven by Kevin Lynch, the councillor's brother, off the road.

Lynch was driving on the Enniskillen Road when he noticed he was being followed by three carloads of RUC officers. One of the RUC cars pulled in behind Lynch's car at speed then put on its sirens and flashed the lights.

Lynch indicated to pull in to the side but before he could stop his car was hit by the RUC car. The RUC officers, some of whom were wearing plain clothes, got out of their cars and surrounded Lynch. They behaved in a threatening and aggressive manner throughout the incident. They threatened him, saying he would be charged with dangerous driving.

According to Ruth Lynch, the RUC are ``carrying out a vendetta against our family because we recently won a case against the Lisnaskea Mobile Support Unit''.


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