Republican News · Thursday 10 July 1997

[An Phoblacht]

North Belfast erupts

By Mick Naughton

Hundreds of masked youths placed barricades across all the major road arteries and engaged scores of RUC and British army patrols during some of the heaviest rioting seen in North Belfast for 20 years.

Areas such as Ardoyne, New Lodge, and the Bone saw sustained petrol bomb attacks leaving several armoured personel carriers burnt out. Last Sunday night one was completely burnt out at the top of Brompton Park in Ardoyne and later dragged away before another suffered a similar fate on the Antrim Road. In scenes reminiscent of the Hunger Strike period of 1981 crates of petrol bombs were ferried up to be hurled at plastic bullet firing RUC squads. These were forced to retreat in many areas such was the ferocity of the attacks. In some cases whole stretches of what once were busy roads were abandoned by the British forces unable to contain the determined rioters.

The Oldpark area resembled a war zone with bed springs being pressed into service as makeshift shields to protect the nationalist youths. Hundreds of plastic bullets were fired, roadways littered with their shell cases. Late on Sunday evening one RUC armoured vehicle got impaled on iron pilings being used as a barricade, its crew forced to flee as petrol bombs zeroed in. Following intense petrol bombing the RUC and British patrols left the streets.

`Snatch' squads, which earlier had been active, were forced to withdraw as shots were heard. A blast bomb and a rocket propelled grenade were also fired. Shielded from fusilades of plastic bullets behind hijacked vehicles the youths kept up their attacks for a three day period.

Meanwhile Sinn Fein activists attempted to stop the rioting explaining to the young people that it suited the British to contain the youths in their own areas and so damage their own communities.

At meetings held in Ardoyne and the New Lodge on Tuesday evening crowds assembled for future protests heard how many of the youth had acted with commendable courage and restraint.

``Some of them are not angels,'' remarked one woman, ``but they are a credit to our communities for taking on the might of the British Army and RUC and forcing them out of our districts, just like they did back in the early 1970s.''


Armagh riots

On Sunday nationalist youths hijacked vehicles in different parts of Armagh while the RUC and British army set up roadblocks on entrances to the city centre.

Later in the evening further trouble broke out in English Street and the RUC fired plastic bullets. Two youths were hit and treated by local firemen before going for further medical attention. Trouble continued into the early hours of the morning.

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