We need peace soon before lives are lost
We need peace soon before lives are lost

By Fr Aidan Troy (for Daily Ireland)

Ardoyne Bungee Jumpers” read the sign on a bonfire just a few minutes from Holy Cross parish in North Belfast. The reference is to the tragic loss of young lives through suicide over recent years.

I learned of the sign from a lady who phoned to express her disgust. She added that thousands of pounds had been given by Belfast City Council for the creation of this bonfire.

She hated seeing the dead mocked she said. The police were notified but the sign was there until all went up in smoke on 11th night. There were probably loud cheers as the flames lapped up towards this sick piece of sign writing.

Above this sign was another. It simply said ‘Sean Kelly’. It too was burned. As this bonfire was being decorated I spent over an hour with Sean Kelly in Maghaberry Prison. Being a pastoral visit our conversation must remain between the two of us. His past is well documented. At present I can say without fear of contradiction that he has not been involved in violence or law breaking since being released on licence. The reasons for his return to prison last month must be shown or let him be immediately released.

All the angels, of course, are not on one side. On the night of July 12, a barrage of stones, bricks and bottles rained down on the Orange Order parade and its followers as it passed through Ardoyne. A number of blast bombs were thrown over the police screens. As they exploded injuries followed. A journalist was carried away injured. It is impossible to justify any of this.

Water cannon were used at once and many of us felt the force and coldness of the water. Plastic bullets were fired by the police. I saw young people injured. Of course, they should not have been there but these dangerous and lethal items should once and for all be banned and pass into history.

They have killed, blinded and permanently injured both rioters and innocent people over the past 35 years. There has to be a better way. Over a hundred police officers were injured to varying degrees. All injuries are wrong.

By the time the rioting ended at 11 pm, I was near to tears of disappointment and sadness. For weeks sincere efforts were made to avoid scenes like those that made the late news and the papers the next day.

Events from football and boxing tournaments to a battle of the DJs had been arranged by the local community. Thanks to President and Dr McAleese 100 children had a great day in Dublin on July 12.

The refusal of the Orange Order to engage in any form of dialogue with the local residents on Crumlin Road and others past whose homes the parade passes a few times every summer is a major obstacle to peace in Ardoyne.

This refusal to enter into conversation with residents ‘imprisoned’ in their homes most of the day gives rise to anger and disgust. It could and should be so different.

The silence of elected politicians who are members of the Orange Order gives a poor example.

Two peaceful nationalist protests both morning and evening on July 12 ended without incident. Dialogue and common sense saw to that.

The determinations of The Parades Commission and the presence of police and army cannot guarantee that violence will not break out again.

The contentious marches are not for me any longer about religion, culture, politics or territory. It is now a ‘pro-life’ issue.

The day is not far away when life will be lost as a result of the present impasse because of the refusal to talk. The Gospel speaks about peace makers and not just peace keepers.

We need urgently to make peace before the next few parades take place. This is not a threat but a plea.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News