Irish Republican News · July 15, 2009
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Disturbances continue amid riot recriminations
Disturbances continue amid riot recriminations

Serious disturbances have continued in north Belfast and other areas of the North following intense parades-related conflict on Monday evening.

Clashes between republican youths and the PSNI police were reported Tuesday night at the junction of Springfield Road and Brompton park in Ardoyne and in the Short Strand area of east Belfast.

Petrol bombs and other missiles were thrown in Ardoyne, while St Matthew’s church in the Short Strand was reported to have been struck by a petrol bomb.

Nationalists also erected a blockade in the Drumbeg area of Craigavon, with reports of vehicle hijackings.

The continuing trouble came amid strong political reaction to the outbreak of violence in north Belfast on Monday evening.

The PSNI fired plastic bullets, as well as deploying baton charges and water cannon, to force an Orange Order procession through the nationalist Ardoyne area.

The trouble over the ‘Twelfth’ marches, which also saw clashes in Derry, Armagh and Rasharkin, County Antrim, sharply polarised republican opinion.

‘ORCHESTRATED’

Sinn Féin claimed the breakaway ‘Real IRA’ and rival political groups such as eirigi and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement had orchestrated the violence. However, the party also called on the Orange Order to hold talks on contentious parades through nationalist areas.

Sinn Féin’s spokesman in north Belfast, Gerry Kelly, again found himself at the heart of a bitter power struggle with hardliners in the Ardoyne, often described as ‘the cockpit of republicanism’.

While describing Monday’s march in Ardoyne as “anti-Catholic”, Mr Kelly raised hackles when he said “a small number of dissident republicans from outside Ardoyne” had sent people into the area “with the sole aim to cause riots, to bring this further down into sectarianism”.

He said the clashes “expose very clearly the anti-peace process and sectarian agenda which feeds these factions. It has nothing whatever to do with Irish republicanism.”

The 32 County Sovereignty Movement said it “absolutely refuted” the assertions.

“Kelly’s comments are deliberately phrased to mislead the wider community into believing that the show of resistance by the people of Ardoyne was cynically manipulated by people from outside the area and thus misrepresented the feelings of the people from Ardoyne.

“The 32CSM reject this and we fully commend the people of Ardoyne, and neighbouring nationalist areas in their efforts to repel the RUC/PSNI from imposing a sectarian hate march in an area where it is clearly not wanted.”

Breandan Mac Cionnaith of eirigi described the events as “the depressingly predictable use of state violence to force an unwanted sectarian march through a nationalist area. Unfortunately, such scenes are an almost annual occurrence in some areas of the Six Counties.”

Mr Mac Cionnaith is also the spokesperson of the Garvaghy Road Residents’ Coalition, which opposes similar Orange Order parades through the nationalist area of Portadown.

“The whole PSNI operation in Ardoyne is reminiscent of similar operations on the Garvaghy and Ormeau roads in years gone by,” he said.

“From about 4pm onwards, hundreds of PSNI members in riot gear prevented residents from entering or leaving their area.

“Those who gathered to peacefully protest were violently attacked -- triggering a predictable and undesirable response from a small number of young people, which the PSNI responded to in time-honoured fashion with batons, water cannon and plastic bullets.

“The suggestion by Sinn Féin that eirigi orchestrated the rioting that occurred in Ardoyne is a transparent attempt by Sinn Féin to divert attention away from the outrageous actions of the PSNI. I challenge Sinn Féin to produce a shred of evidence to support their claims of eirigi involvement in rioting.”

“It wasn’t so very long ago that Sinn Féin was encouraging its own members and supporters to mobilise in solidarity with communities in Ardoyne, Garvaghy and Ormeau.

“Sinn Féin needs to take a reality check and ask themselves why they are now acting as apologists for state violence against the nationalist community?”

26-County Taoiseach Brian Cowen declared the rioters to be a “tiny and unrepresentative group of people with no mandate and no support for their actions”. He promised thety would not bring down the North’s political institutions “and the peace that we all worked so hard to achieve”. He said: “They will not succeed.”

‘REPREHENSIBLE’

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said the clashes were “wrong” and “reprehensible” but that the numbers involved were relatively small and could not be compared “in terms of what it used to be like”.

He said the vast majority of the thousands of parades by the Protestant marching orders held throughout each year now passed off peacefully and called for talks to take place between his party and the Orange Order to resolve problems that remained at a small number of locations.

But he accepted there was no support in Ardoyne for the loyalist parades going down the permitted route.

“The only people who want to go that way are the Orange,” he said. “And I would appeal to them in terms of these six or seven contested parades to talk, or not to go in. Why not have their ‘Orangefest’ celebrations without... playing into the hands of these small groups.”

Mr Adams said Orange Order leaders should remove their refusal to hold talks with elected Sinn Féin politicians.

“My biggest frustration is that thus far the Orange Order has contributed nothing to the peace process.

“The Orange Order still refuses to talk to Sinn Féin... even though Martin McGuinness is the deputy First Minister, even though there are a number of Sinn Féin ministers, even though unlike them we have a mandate which we renew at every election.

“They talk about being a Christian organisation, about neighbourliness, and I don’t dissent from any of that and I don’t say any of this to undermine the good decent people who were involved in the Orange, but why on earth can’t they come forward and meet us.”

© 2009 Irish Republican News