Irish Republican News · July 19, 2013
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Ardoyne under siege
Ardoyne under siege

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After a week of the most intense loyalist violence, a decision by the Parades Commission to reroute another planned march by the anti-Catholic Orange Order has been welcomed as good news.

Orangemen have said they will attempt to march through the republican Ardoyne and surrounding areas of north Belfast this Saturday, July 20th, to ‘complete’ their July 12th parade.

For several nights this week, Orangemen and their loyalist supporters have engaged in heavy rioting -- wielding swords, bricks, masonry, petrol bombs, blast bombs, fireworks and other missiles -- in their determination to march down the Crumlin Road and into a series of nationalist communities.

Rioting quickly spread to loyalist east Belfast, and roadblocks and barricades created disturbances across the North.

But while the violence was at its most intense on Friday night, it continued in a more localised manner every night since with diminishing intensity.

Widely blamed for encouraging the riots with militaristic speeches and statements, the Protestant masonic order initially appeared to back down before announcing this weekend’s parade plan.

Their stated reason is to “escort our fellow brethren home to their Orange Hall and therefore complete the Twelfth of July parade”.

Tomorrow’s march - involving 500 participants, three bands and an undisclosed number of supporters - will again be blocked at the junction of Woodvale Road and Woodvale Parade and banned from passing through the Ardoyne area.

It is expected that the Orangemen will now stage weekly ‘Drumcree-style’ parades to the north Belfast flashpoint, recalling the prolonged loyalist siege of the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown in the late nineties.

MEDIEVAL-STYLE BATTLE

On Friday, and for three successive days, the intersection saw serious confrontations between sword-wielding Orangemen and the shield-bearing PSNI riot police.

Each side had its reinforcements: the Orangemen enjoyed the support of over a thousand loyalist supporters, many intoxicated by the alcohol and heat. The PSNI fought back with the support of over a thousand riot police, hundreds specially drafted in from London and other British cities.

While an Orange Order spokesman appealed today for calm, it is widely feared that Saturday’s stand-off will see the full venom of the loyalist battle gangs directed against Ardoyne with the growing involvement of the murder gangs of the unionist paramilitary UVF.

At the eye of the Orange storm on Friday, Sinn Fein Assembly member Gerry Kelly was among those who helped to ensure republican Ardoyne remained peaceful, addressing a crowd from his favourite position, the hood of a PSNI Landrover.

Today, he denounced the plan for a new parade.

“Whoever in the Orange Order thought this was a good move needs to reflect on how it has increased tensions and done absolutely nothing to point towards a resolution of the situation,” he said.

A spokesman for the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective said: “This has been the most peaceful July in Ardoyne for many years, confirming what GARC has being saying for a long time now - that it is these unwanted coat trailing exercises that were the basis of trouble that plagued our community for generations.”

It said it would not hold a protest on Saturday in a bid to lower tension in the area, but added that “all attempts by the Orange Order to provoke our community will fail and are futile.”

SWORDS AND SHIELDS

The cost of the disorder has yet to be measured, but the PSNI has said 72 of its members had been injured. Riot police fired 49 plastic bullets.

It was also revealed British Army Land Rovers are back on the streets to cope with the increased involvement of the UVF and UDA. So-called ‘snatch’ vehicles have also been spotted outside nationalist estates across the city in recent days.

The PSNI admitted 140 British Army Land Rovers ‘loaned’ to them for the G8 have been ‘retained’. Repainted the same white as PSNI Land Rovers, the British Army vehicles have had the word ‘police’ roughly painted on their sides.

A significant feature of the current wave of violence is the involvement of a broad cross-section of unionist society, including older man and women and the middle classes.

Elderly men have been seen to attack police lines with everything they can lay their hands on, and cheering as the PSNI suffered injuries. Some appeared so drunk that they could barely stand, while others strutted around in a state of undress or performed lewd actions for the entertainment of the baying mob.

Orangemen in sashes and bowler hats were often to the fore, swiping viciously at the PSNI with their ‘commemorative’ Battle of the Boyne swords. They were assisted by loyalist bandsmen, some wearing official Royal Navy ‘Help for Heroes’ T-shirts, as well as masked and hooded youths-

By Tuesday, the small nationalist Short Strand enclave had once again become the main focus of loyalist violence -- as it had been at the start of the year.

EASY TARGETS

Although initially overshadowed by the scenes in Woodvale, the rioters in east Belfast also swaggered around drunkenly before the cameras between launching themselves wildly at riot police, feeling protected by the domination of the area by the UVF.

Seventy-eight-year old Short Strand resident Tommy McNulty, whose home was targeted several times in recent days, says he felt let down by those political leaders who had come to reassure him before. The attacks have forced Mr McNulty’s 81-year-old wife Kathleen to leave their home.

“We have lost count of how many times our house has been attacked,” he said.

“I have had [British Direct Ruler] Theresa Villiers sitting on my couch. I have met TDs and politicians and nothing has been done.”

As the week wore on, the rioting appears to have become more centred in the areas controlled by UVF murder gangs.

Violence spread to strongholds such as Mount Vernon in north Belfast and the Village area of west Belfast. There were also disturbances in Portadown, County Armagh, and in Newtownabbey, County Antrim.

But nationalist communities were living in fear across the North. A Catholic woman in Coleraine escaped injury after flammable liquid was poured through her letterbox on the Twelfth night - the third attack on her home in a week. The woman, who is ill and awaiting major surgery, lives alone in a predominantly loyalist area of Coleraine. Although she was not hurt in the attack, she has been left badly shaken.

Last week, she was treated for an injury to her eye after a brick was thrown though her kitchen window. Bricks were thrown into her back garden in a separate attack.

SUICIDE MOCKED

But the trouble began, as every year, with the sectarian bonfires of the ‘Eleventh Night’, the eve of the Twelfth parades.

While a statue of the Virgin Mary placed on once bonfire caused, an effigy placed on another also caused considerable anger. It was intended to depict a popular west Belfast priest who died by suicide last month, it has emerged.

Fr Matt Wallace, originally from Templetown in Co Wexford, was dubbed “the people’s priest” after having served communities in west Belfast for almost four decades. The parish priest of Holy Trinity Church in Turf Lodge was found dead in the parochial house.

For some the burning of the effigy brought back memories of their own tragedies.

Margaret McCartney said she was horrified when she was shown a picture of the bonfire in Rathcoole, Newtownabbey.

“My little nephew is 11 years dead and he [killed] himself,” she said. “It’s very, very sick. Honestly, when these people do die, they will have to meet their maker knowing they did this.”

© 2013 Irish Republican News