The Glorious Twelfth
BY LAURA FRIEL
On the morning of the Twelfth, the front page of Belfast's Newsletter carried the silhouette of a small boy beating a drum, his face turned towards the flames of a bonfire which filled the background. ``11th Night: bonfires lit up the sky'' read the caption. Inside, the editorial looked forward to a glorious Twelfth where ``it may just be possible for ordinary people to immerse themselves in the pageantry and nostalgia of it all''.
But the news headlines told a different story. ``Body found at
11th bonfire'', ``Gun gang appear at 11th night bonfire'',
``Shoppers desert city centre stores'', ``Councillors
threatened'', ``...thugs target house'', ``Bishop slams street
Violence isn't an aberration to Orangeism. It's all part of the spectacle.
After a week of mayhem precipitated by Orange protesters, armed loyalists shows of strength at Drumcree and at 11th bonfires throughout the North, sustained rioting at bonfire sites in Derry's Waterside , killing at a bonfire at Larne and two stabbings, one near fatal, at a bonfire in East Belfast, `ordinary people' might be forgiven for choosing not to immerse themselves in Orange culture and tradition.
At bonfires in Rockview Street in Sandy Row, and the Shankill area of Belfast, UDA gunmen fired shots into the air to the cheers of Orange revellers. Four masked gunmen and a woman fired over 70 shots from a variety of automatic and hand guns. The crowd chanted their support ``UFF, UFF'' as the weapons were discharged. Shots were also reported at Chief Street.
In the Kilcooley estate in Bangor, shots were fired by loyalists at an 11th Night bonfire. There were also reports of gunfire in the Rathcoole and Mossley areas of Newtownabbey. Petrol bombs were thrown at an illegal roadblock in Ballycraigy and in Carrickfergus petrol bombs were seized.
In the Waterside area of Derry, during four hours of rioting over 100 petrol bombs were thrown along with a number of fireworks encased in bottles. Car were hijacked and burnt at Tullyally. An ambulance crew called out to attend a man who had suffered an epileptic seizure were attacked, as were a number of other medical staff during loyalist disturbances across the North.
In Tennant Street in Belfast, an ambulance officer's car was attacked by a youth wielding a wooden post. Two ambulance staff required hospital treatment after they were assaulted in the Forthriver Drive area of Belfast after answering a call asking for assistance for a sick child. Catholic members of staff at the Mater hospital in North Belfast removed identifying name tags after being threatened while travelling to and from work.
Fire crews also reported a number of attacks . A 20-strong mob surrounded a fire crew attempting to tackle a blaze at a property in the Orangefield estate in Armagh. A woman was injured in the hand after a crossbow was fired, smashing the window of the car she was driving along the Crumlin Road.
In front of a crowd of over several hundred people attending a bonfire in Boyne Square, Larne, 22-year-old Andy Cairns was beaten and kicked by a group of 12 men before being shot dead. The dead man, believed to have links with the UVF, was targeted after singing a UVF song in a nearby Glasgow Rangers club. His assailants are believed to be connected to the UDA.
At a bonfire site in East Belfast, a 22-year-old man was rushed to hospital in a critical condition after being stabbed. A 17-year-old youth also sustained stab wounds in nearby Euston Street. A third man died after being injured in a knife attack in Coleraine on Tuesday night but the incident is thought to be unconnected to the 11th Night. A 38-year-old man suffered a fractured skull during an assault at a bonfire in Ahoghill, Antrim.
During the week of the Twelfth, Catholics homes were attacked in Castledawson, Co. Derry. A house, believed to be the home of a Catholic family, in Newry Road, Co. Armagh, was extensively damaged after it was petrol bombed. In Belfast, Catholic families living in Finaghy and the Trenchard area of Blacks Road were attacked.
Masked loyalists carrying weapons invaded the small nationalist enclave in Trenchard, attacking several homes with bottles. In a second night of violent intimidation, vehicles attempting to drive into the enclave were attacked and smashed. ``Our house is like a prison,'' said one Catholic resident.
Nationalist homes in the Springfield Road area of West Belfast were repeatedly attacked. Fra Stone of the Falls Community Council criticised the failure of the RUC. ``Throughout Belfast, Catholics are being forcibly thrown out of their homes, fleeing for their lives, by loyalists mobs as the RUC look on,'' he said.
``If you had witnessed the barrage of bricks, empty beer bottles and various other items raining down on Catholic homes on the Springfield Road on the 11th Night, then you could have seen some of the fear that people are living in, fearful for their children, themselves and their neighbours.''
In Magherafelt, South Derry, a woman living alone with a disabled child was terrorised by a loyalist mob on the 11th Night. Sheena McGovern had been temporarily living in the predominantly Protestant Leckagh Drive area for less than two weeks while her own home was being renovated. For over six hours, a loyalist mob pelted the ` house with bricks and bottles, leaving the family of six children terrified.
In Randalstown, South Antrim, following a year of sustained sectarian intimidation, Catholics living in the Neilsbrook estate were forced to flee from their homes. The homes of Catholic families have been attacked by pipe bombs and residents have received threatening mail, including letters containing bullets from the UVF.
Graffiti painted across their walls threatens''KAT'', Kill All Taigs. Catholic families have been increasingly intimidated from using local amenities, including the community and health centre. On the week of the Twelfth, two more Catholic families were intimidated out after their homes were targeted by loyalist mobs. One widow had lived in the area for 36 years. In what was once a mixed estate, only ten Catholic families now remain.
Catholic chapels and schools were also targeted throughout the North. Catholic families in Belfast's isolated Glengormley estate were living in fear after petrol bomb attacks on their local chapel and school. St. Mary's on the Hill and St. Macnissi's were extensively damaged in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday.
St. Patrick's church near Derriaghy, Co. Antrim was damaged following a sectarian arson attack. Parish priest Fr. Brendan McMullan narrowly escaped injury when his car was hijacked and burnt by a loyalist mob in the previous week. This was the second arson attack on St Patrick's within a year.
In Harryville, Ballymena, the Catholic Church of Our Lady, the focus of weekly loyalist intimidation for almost a year in 1997, was extensively damaged after a fire bomb attack on Monday night.
Visiting the smoke-damaged church, the bishop of Down and Conor, Dr. Patrick Walsh, said it was ``another sad day for the priests and parishioners who had been forced to live with intimidation and harassment for many years''. The ``bitter speeches of leaders bent on rousing passions and fermenting hatred'' said the bishop, were at the root of recent sectarian attacks.
Within hours of the attack in Harryville, a Catholic secondary school in Ballymena was also targeted. St Patrick's in Broughshane Road was extensively damaged by fire.
In the most serious sectarian attack of this week, a 21-year-old Catholic civil servant narrowly escaped death and serious injury when a car bomb exploded under the vehicle as he was getting into the driver's seat. Colm Laverty from Castlewellan suffered a deep gash in his thigh and other minor injuries when the device exploded outside his family's Newcastle Road home.
The attack was described as a random sectarian attack. The car was parked outside the last house along the road. The family are well known local GAA supporters. The device, a pipe bomb packed with shot gun cartridge power and shrapnel, was designed to kill, crude but potentially lethal. The mercury tilt device only partially exploded, ripping through the car floor but leaving its victim with only non life threatening injuries.
Bomb making equipment was discovered in the Millbrook area of Larne, Co. Antrim and a loyalist arms cache was uncovered in Lurgan. The weapons found included a sub machine gun and 90 rounds of ammunition. Children in an Armagh housing estate escaped injury when a pipe bomb they had been playing with failed to explode. The children found it behind some stones and had played with the 10 inch device for over an hour before an adult was alerted.
``Sadly, the Twelfth is not what it used to be,'' lamented the Newsletter. ``There was a time when the Twelfth was a purely celebratory occasion, enjoyed by people of all backgrounds. Something to look forward to, a pleasing midsummer diversion,'' said the editorial.
``Many Orangemen..yearn for a return to the days when they could don their bowler hats and collarettes, turn out in their Sunday best, and march proudly behind their bands,'' said the Newsletter. ``Is it not possible to look back in order to see a vision of the future?'' the editorial asked.
The Orange institution's core values, `` Reverend Brian Kennaway told the Sunday Business Post, ``can be identified as fraternity, religious piety (of the Reformed variety) civic awareness, civil and religious liberty and tolerance.''
``At present, there would appear to be some variance between the principles and practice of Orangeism,'' continued Kennaway, and ``a tendency in the media to demonise the whole because of the backsliding of the few.''
It was despicable, said DUP Larne Councillor Jack McKee, commenting on the bonfire killing of loyalist Andy Cairns, ``Protestant shooting Protestant''.
``This murder has reflected very badly on what should have been a carnival atmosphere, `` said John White of the UDP. ``This comes out of the blue,'' said David Ervine of the PUP. ``Someone out celebrating their culture winds up dead.''
Fire setting, the burning of effigies, armed shows of strength, the beating of drums, sectarian songs, triumphalist marches, rabble rousing speeches and anti-Catholic resolutions condemning ecumenism. Violence isn't an aberration to Orangeism. It's all part of the spectacle.