Irish Republican News · July 12, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
The Glorious Twelfth

By Susan McKay (for the Irish News)

And so dawns the Glorious Twelfth after a weekend which saw the attempted murder by arson of a Catholic couple in north Belfast, and the terrifying eviction from her home in Ahoghill, Co Antrim, of Kathleen McCaughey.

Today, as Kathleen sits in the house she was moved to in nearby Portglenone, she will hear the banging of the Lambeg drums and the booming of Ian Paisley’s voice as the Independent Orange Order gathers in the village to celebrate Protestantism, heritage and culture.

She last heard those drums on Thursday night, when a mob beating them marched round her house shouting sectarian abuse.

They threatened to burn the house down, as well as those of her neighbours, if she didn’t get out immediately.

The crowd included men, women, and, most depressingly of all, children. The 51-year-old grandmother had to get the police to escort her to safety.

Ahoghill is proudly decked out in Union and Northern Ireland flags and bunting. The mob will no doubt have celebrated their victory around an Eleventh night bonfire last night.

Kathleen McCaughey had been subjected to a series of attacks over the past months – petrol bombs, paint bombs, bullets in the post and threats to her and to her daughter and young grandsons.

But she had lived in Brookhill Gardens for all of her 51 years – her parents were the first family in the estate, and Kathleen was born a week after they moved in.

She was determined to defy the bullies, and publicly stated that she was going nowhere.

However, two weeks ago when the house was paintbombed yet again, she decided not to repaint it. It was costing her hundreds of pounds each time.

Faced with the mob on Thursday night, she decided it was time to go. “My nerves just went,” she told me yesterday. She had to be sedated after the eviction.

She paid tribute to her “good Protestant neighbours”, some of whom wept and hugged her as she left.

They were on her side, she said, but they were afraid to stand up and defend her for fear the thugs would turn on them next.

Kathleen has nothing but scorn for those who have targeted her.

Apart from anything else, they don’t realise, she said, because they are blow-ins compared with her family, that her mother was a die-hard Protestant from the Shankill Road.

Mrs McCaughey had married a Catholic, but she liked nothing better than to bring the children to the Eleventh night bonfires where she’d sing Orange songs and party the night away. They went to the parades, too.

Kathleen married a Protestant – they are now separated – and so did several of her siblings. Kathleen’s grandchildren go to the local integrated school.

Kathleen said she’ll miss her neighbours in Ahoghill, but she has been welcomed into Portglenone.

“Protestant neighbours have already come to me and told me I’m to have no worries here,” she said. “There are no flags in this estate.”

She already knows quite a few Catholic and mixed-religion neighbours: “There’s quite a few here got put out of Ahoghill before.”

Her daughter and her children have also moved to Portglenone. It’s a mixed village which is, on the whole, tolerant and well-integrated.

On Sunday, a Protestant minister joined a priest in the local Catholic church in a service of remembrance after the sudden and untimely death of a local Protestant man, Alan Breen, who was in a mixed marriage with Marie Smyth.

According to Kathleen, Ahoghill used to be like that. “The way it is now, I’m well out of it,” she said.

It would be wonderful if, as Kathleen’s MP, Paisley used his address in Portglenone today to denounce those who bullied her from her home.

It would be wonderful if, when Orangemen from Ahoghill gather today in Cullybackey, they received the same message.

However, it is worth remembering that when he addressed the Independent Orange Order at Ballycastle in 1997, Paisley declared that “the entire pan-nationalist front”, ie Catholics, was united behind the “beast of fascism, the IRA”.

If it’s words designed to improve community relations and stop the intimidation of the Catholic minority that we’re after, we’d better not hold our breath.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News