As the height of the Protestant marching season approaches, nationalists are facing a weekend of sectarian intimidation, paramilitary displays, provocative marches and drunken, uncontrolled violence at ‘Eleventh Night’ bonfires.
A petrol bomb has been thrown at a pub in County Antrim in the early hours of this morning. Eight windows were shattered during the attack on ‘Shea Og’s Bar’ at Main Street in Rasharkin. There were no injuries in an attack intended to increase fear and tension ahead of the weekend.
The 90% nationalist village is to be subjected to an Orange Order parade on Saturday.
Sinn Féin’s Daithi McKay said: “A lot of work is happening to try and prevent any trouble at Saturday’s parade. “Historically, there would also have been a protest but this year it was not taking place; this attack could have far reaching implications for Saturday.”
Meanwhile, Catholics in the village of Stoneyford, already under siege, will tonight be forced to watch their tormentors parade through their community in a night of terror.
A convicted loyalist rioter is to hold a march around Stoneyford village on the eve of ‘the Twelfth’, the annual celebration of a 17th century Protestant battle victory.
Mark Harbinson wants to lead 45 loyalists in a late-night march around the village of Stoneyford this [Friday] night, just hours before bonfires are lit across the North.
Last summer Harbinson and his ‘kicn-the-Pope’ flute band staged an illegal march around Stoneyford.
The route taken went past Catholic homes in Stonebridge Meadows, which have been repeatedly targeted in sectarian attacks.
Since then a further two Catholic families have fled the County Antrim village. The proposed loyalist parade tonight will pass close to their former homes.
One Catholic family -- who were intimidated from their Stoneyford home -- are still facing threats after a chilling message, believed to be from loyalists, was read out unwittingly on a local radio station.
On the popular Gerry Anderson show last week, the following message was read out: ‘Can you please shout out a big bye bye to the Braniff family from all the boys in Stoneyford?’
The young family fled the village in March while other family members left the village last week after being subjected to anti-Catholic threats.
Sinn Féin Assembly member Paul Butler has called on the BBC to apologise to members of the Braniff family.
* A turf war between rival unionist death squads has led to an upsurge in paramilitary flags in parts of the North in the lead up to ‘the Twelfth’. Flags of the UDA and UVF murder gangs are flying on lamp-posts and buildings across the North, including council buildings in Ballymena.
* The ‘Union Jack Souvenir Shop’ on the Newtownards Road in Belfast has received media attention for openly selling Irish national tricolours as ‘Fenian flags to burn’. The practice of burning the Irish tricolour on top of ‘Eleventh Night’ bonfires is considered a unionist tradition.
* A Catholic pensioner living in a largely Protestant housing estate in County Derry has been subjected to a typical sectarian attack in what is an annual confrontation since he moved in in 1981. Loyalists placed a huge ‘Northern Ireland’ flag on the television aerial on his home in Garvagh overnight on Thursday. When he objected, he was threatened and abused.
* The Orange Order in Larne have erected red, white and blue bunting in the town ahead of the Twelfth, despite opposition from the local council. On Monday, around 200 Orangemen staged a protest at Larne Borough Council’s offices, claiming its decision not to display official sectarian bunting was “anti-British”.
* The annual Orange Order parade at Drumcree in Portadown passed off relatively quietly on Sunday, with some 350 Orangemen and bandsmen marching in heavy rain and a small group of supporters following the march. There was no nationalist protest after the parade was again rerouted away from the nationalist Garvaghy Road.