Republican News · Thursday 19 August 1999

[An Phoblacht]

Violent reaction to sectarian march in Derry


Ten thousand Apprentice Boys marched unrestricted through Derry city centre on Saturday, 14 August, while nationalists in the city and on Belfast's Ormeau Road were hemmed in behind police lines.

The Derry march, which was approved by the Parades Commission and facilitated by the RUC, proves that yet again the Orange Order are being given the upper hand on the parades issue. The Parades Commission, after being initially sympathetic to residents' groups on the parades issue, has now resorted to rewarding the Orange Order for any dialogue, no matter how shallow or superficial. As the situation stands, the commission is exposing its lack of understanding over the whole question of the right to live free from sectarian harassment. Instead it seems now to merely be searching for the path of least unionist resistance.

Derry had been saturated with a huge RUC presence since early on Saturday morning and most of the city centre was sealed off. A makeshift army camp was set up in Foyle Street to house a number of military vehicles and water cannons. Nationalists were hemmed into the Bogside from mid morning when the British army placed barricades over the gates leading through the city walls into the Bogside.

On Saturday morning, 700 people left Free Derry Corner and made their way to Waterloo Place, where they were blocked by RUC members dressed in full riot gear. The Parades Commission had on Friday, 13 August banned the Bogside Residents Group (BRG) protest from going past Waterloo Place in the city centre.

BRG spokesperson Donncha MacNiallais, addressing the rally, slammed the Parades Commission for undermining the work done in recent years in order to resolve the parades issue and said that once again the message from the Parades Commission was ``croppies lie down''.

Tensions caused by the Parades Commission ruling and exasperated by the massive combined RUC and British Army presence escalated as it became clear from news reports that nationalists on the Lower Ormeau in Belfast had been beaten off the road by the RUC to facilitate the Apprentice Boys.

Appealing for calm, MacNiallais asked the marchers to return to Free Derry corner, but several hundred people, clearly frustrated and angry, remained at RUC lines in protest.

Violence flared a short time later when missiles were thrown at the RUC, who made repeated charges on the crowd, and later a small number petrol bombs were thrown by protesters and a number of arrests were made.

RUC claims that 130 petrol bombs were thrown have been challenged by journalists who witnessed the violence. They reported the real figure at nearer to 30. Vehicles were also hijacked but were removed before they could be set alight.

The rioting eventually died down in the early evening when the RUC withdrew from the area.

Donncha MacNiallais has laid the blame for the violence firmly at the door of the Parades Commission and the RUC. He said: ``The ultimate responsibility for any trouble rests solely and squarely on the shoulders of the RUC and behind that decision to force parades through here and through the Ormeau Road''.

RUC brutality was again in force during the rioting, when an officer in riot gear headbutted a man as he tried to leave Treacey's bar to return home. As the man attempted to leave the bar he was ordered to get back inside. When he protested that he wanted to go home, he was headbutted in the face by an RUC officer who was wearing a crash helmet. The man was then arrested and dragged to a nearby RUC Land Rover.

Further violence flared and continued late on Saturday night with several shops and buildings petrol bombed and set on fire. The cost of rioting is set to run into millions as does the loss of earnings as the city was forced to close to facilitate the march.

McGuinness - Violence not orchestrated by republicans

Sinn Féin Assembly member Martin McGuinness has hit back at claims made by RUC assistant chief constable Alan McQuillan that Saturday's violence in Derry was orchestrated by republicans.

On Friday, 13 August, McQuillan claimed that he been told by community leaders that there was going to be widespread violence and that petrol bombs were being stockpiled.

McGuinness said: ``Alan McQuillan's remarks were more to do with justifying the actions of the RUC on the Lower Ormeau and the very heavy military presence which the RUC and British army engaged in here in this town to facilitate 10,000 Apprentice Boys on their march.''

Searching past mere recriminations and condemnations, McGuinness added that the violence was a direct response by young people in the city to the Apprentice Boys' march and RUC brutality.

``Claims that republicans were attempting to orchestrate violence here have clearly been shown to be rubbish... no one has to orchestrate the young people of this city, who have the ability to organise themselves in response to political events in the North.''

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