Catholics attacked as PSNI look on
Catholics attacked as PSNI look on

Tension is mounting in west Belfast ahead of tomorrow’s anti-Catholic march by the Orange Order in the Whiterock area.

The Parades Commission has permitted the Orange Order to march on to the nationalist Springfield Road through the Mackies industrial estate link. However, the Protestant marching organisation opposes this ruling.

Two Catholic community workers were attacked at the ‘flashpoint’ interface on Wednesday by a gang of up to fifty loyalists, while residents living nearby were also threatened.

It occurred as the hardline supporters of the Orange Order were blockading traffic in north and west Belfast in protest at the decision to reroute the parade.

The PSNI police issued a ‘verbal warning’ to the loyalists and threatened to inform the Public Prosecution Service. This seems unlikely to discourage another planned blockade of the Springfield Road and further violence on Saturday.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams criticised the PSNI inaction.

“This all took place in full view of the PSNI who stood idly by and did nothing. The ambivalence of the PSNI towards sectarian loyalist violence is unacceptable. The PSNI response to protests on the Springfield Road is also in stark contrast to their handling of protests by nationalist residents.

“The Irish and British government have a responsibility to protect people from sectarian violence and the fear of attack and intimidation. This is rooted in the Agreement. Yet this summer both governments have failed to protect nationalist communities.

The Orange Order was being urged to call off Saturday’s parade, as it did in June, in the face of potential violence -- but that appears unlikely. “If we cancelled the parade now we wouldn’t be allowed to show our faces on the (loyalist) Shankill ever again,” one Orangeman was reported to have said. He said the Order now feared “inevitable trouble” on Saturday.

Loyalists are understood to have put pressure on British Direct Ruler Peter Hain to overturn the Parades Commission ruling. Springfield Road residents’ spokesman Sean Murray said it would be a “political disaster” if they succeeded.

“Peter Hain can’t back down to the threat of loyalist violence now,” he said.

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