Ardoyne riot row continues
Ardoyne riot row continues

Sinn Fein has clashed with rival republican groups following allegations that so-called ‘dissidents’ were behind last week’s riots in north Belfast.

The Ardoyne area saw some of the heaviest rioting in years after a provocative Orange Order parade was forced through the predominately nationalist community.

Danny McBrearty, National Chairperson of the Republican Network for Unity, lashed out at Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly in particular over claims that it was involved in organising three nights of riots. In a hard-hitting, angry statement, he called on Mr Kelly to “put up or shut up”.

“On July 14th [the day after thr outbreak of rioting] Gerry Kelly was busy naming names to the media of certain Republicans that he said bore responsibility for the civil unrest.

“At the same time [PSNI police inspector Mark Hamilton] was visiting newsrooms in Belfast giving off-the-record briefings to selected journalists... these same men were named as both the instigators of the rioting and of holding senior positions within a proscribed organisation [the Real IRA].

“Co-incidental or co-ordinated? It is for the nationalist community and the greater republican family to decide.”

Mr McBrearty said the groups’ activists, which includes a number of former political prisoners, were “clearly seen to be attempting to participate in a peaceful protest”. He said members had visibly remonstrated with stone-throwing youths.

“The responsibility for the civil unrest which took place in Ardoyne on the 13th, 14th and 15th of July was in the first instance that of the Orange Order. The rioting was in response to the provocation and conduct of the RUC/PSNI who made any attempt of peaceful protest at the Ardoyne shops impossible.

“The behaviour of the same paramilitary force in the subsequent days i.e. swamping the streets of Ardoyne, stopping youths and residents under section 44 of the PTA [Prevention of Terrorism Act], sectarian insults from armoured land rovers, the raiding of homes and subsequent arrests guaranteed that the youth of the area would respond as they did.”

He accused Gerry Kelly of ‘felon setting’ -- naming responsible individuals without any proof or veracity. One of those he said had been named, Tony ‘TC’ Catney, is currently taking legal counsel with a view to pursuing an action on their behalf in the courts.”


Speaking in advance of a meeting organised by Sinn Fein to discuss the unrest, he call upon Gerry Kelly “to repeat and give proof to his allegations or to do the honourable thing and that is to withdraw his allegations and comments and then to unreservedly apologise to the nationalist/republican community for his behaviour and that of his party over these events.”

At the meeting in the Crumlin Star social club on Tuesday night, the Sinn Fein assemblyman and Junior Minister in the Stormont Executive, addressed a crowd of over a hundred.

Mr Kelly said the Orange Order, who apply to walk past Catholic areas, as well as the Parades Commission, must be taken to task.

“People are clearly angry, and they’re angry about a number of things,” he said.

“They’re angry in the first instance that an Orange parade, an anti-Catholic parade, is still being forced up through Mountainview, the Dales and Ardoyne. I hate people talking about ‘Ardoyne Shops’ because this is three different Catholic areas that this parade goes up through.

“They’re angry the Parades Commission is continuing to make decisions which allow Orangemen to be as intransigent as they are. And they’re angry at the police response, because the PSNI force the parades up, and because once those decisions are made the PSNI will always force those parades up.”

Repeating earlier claims that dissident groupings, such as the Real IRA, orchestrated the trouble, Mr Kelly said there was no future in supporting such organisations.

“These organisations are - and if you look at where they are - they have no direction, and this is my fear, there is a young generation there that can be misled.

“The Continuity IRA has been in existence since 1986. It has done very little in that whole period.

“The Real IRA has been there since 1996 and it has done very little. It’s capable, they’re all capable if they have weapons, but they don’t have a strategy and killing in such circumstances is a hundred times worse than within a conflict.

He said the dissidents were “trying to create riots to fire shots”, which he said was an “absolutely mad” strategy.

“Rioting is doing nothing except causing damage to our own area. I mean one of the shopkeepers told me that a number of shops were told to shut down from one of these small organisations and it’s the 1st time in 12 years anybody has told them to close down. That’s the difficulty, that’s the stuff we have to come back at.”


Meanwhile, prominent Ardoyne republican Mairtin Og Meehan, son of the former republican leader of the same name, said in an interview that the rioting showed the depth of working-class republican disillusionment with Sinn Fein’s politics.

“People expected things to improve post-Belfast agreement -- I certainly did. But there’s been no peace dividend for these areas and Sinn Fein can’t explain why.”

Around 6,000 people live in Ardoyne, he said. “More than 500 residents went to jail, and 99 were killed during the war. We’ve seen no improvement in terms of jobs or housing. We have extreme over-crowding. There’s ample vacant land in north Belfast but unionists want to contain the Catholic population so there’s a de facto ‘Orange line’ where houses can’t be built.

“Ardoyne has a massive under-25 population, but no soccer or Gaelic pitch, or leisure centre. The Shankill and Ballysillan (neighbouring loyalist areas) have leisure centres. But if we went up there for a swim, it would be like Jaws - there’d be nothing left of us.”

Meehan said the 2001 Holy Cross protest had scarred local youth.

“Many of the rioters would have seen their wee sisters walk to school amidst a hail of loyalist physical and verbal abuse,” he said. That has influenced their attitudes.”

* A man publicly named and arrested in connection with the alleged firing of a shot during the riots has received a loyalist death threat, as has his wife. A suspected ‘dissident’, he was filmed by the BBC being dragged from his home by the PSNI.

He was released without charge the following day. Both are understood to be taking legal action in connection with the incident.

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