GARC ‘setting the record straight’

GARC (the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective) has issued what it says is an attempt to set the record straight on the July 12th protests against an Orange Order march in north Belfast. The following is the full text of that statement.

Three days before the Twelfth, GARC members and residents met PSNI Chief Super, Nigel Grimshaw in the presence of Fr. Gary Donegan at Holy Cross. During the meeting, we articulated our position, the results of our survey, and other literature which we previously distributed within the area. We also pointed out that it included no inflammatory content i.e.: incitement etc. We also notified him that there would be a protest but our plan of action had yet to be decided. Contrary to what Sinn Fein and others say, at no time did the residents collective never state it wouldn’t talk to the PSNI. As we’re on public record saying that we would talk to anyone, except the Parades Commission.

On Sunday, 11th, July, three GARC residents met with a member of CARA [Crumlin-Ardoyne Residents Association]. Where upon we agreed to join the morning protest. As a respected member of our community had passed away and whose funeral was due to take place around the time of the parade. We all wanted to ensure he was buried with dignity. The same CARA member was also informed that we would be holding A peaceful protest the following afternoon. Early next day, as locals assembled to oppose the parade. A number of CARA members alongside scores of Sinn Fein members from across Belfast and beyond. Bizarrely donned vests with, ‘Ardoyne Stewart’ on the back. Under clear instructions from Belfast S/F Chair & Andersonstown resident Bobby Storey, his Party ‘Stewarts’ tried to intimidate Ardoyne residents and order those holding GARC posters not to display them and blocked them by standing in front of them. This tactic failed miserably. Storey and Gerry Kelly MLA reached new lows when they arrogantly asked an SDLP member and resident was his Party supporting GARC because he was holding one of our posters. These actions were attempts to create a confrontation. FACT! CARA have consistently distanced themselves from S/F and vice versa. However, Gerry Kelly and his Party’s constant defending and support of CARA makes it crystal clear who really pulls CARA’s strings.

GARC state that no-one has a monopoly on protests.

At 2pm that afternoon, members of GARC alongside a number of political activists donned peaceful protest shirts and began a White-Line Picket from the Ambulance Station alongside Nationalist homes on the Crumlin Road NOT SHOP FRONTS to protest at the insane decision to allow drunken bigots to return through Ardoyne. For the next two and a half hours, we stood peacefully with placards. Around 4.30pm, the dreaded annual PSNI operation swung into action. It was then that residents and supporters commenced began a peaceful sit-down protest.

Over the next few hours, between 150 -200 demonstrators remained peacefully blocking the road. Despite erroneous claims the majority live or lived in Greater Ardoyne. We commend everyone who took part, regardless of political affiliations. At 6.30pm, the PSNI began manhandling protesters from the road. GARC stood firm in the face of this oppression. However, while this was taking place a small group of youths, some of who were known criminals attacked not only Police lines but also us protesters. This only distracted away from us being brutalised by the riot-squad.

Contrary to what S/F and others have said, GARC made a genuine and determined attempt to stop the bigots which is more than can be said for those who prefer to smear us. S/F and CARA need to explain why they did not join our protests? Is it because you are now part of the system that condemns us annually to bigotry and unwanted violence? How can our actions be contrived as anti-peace, when all we want is that we as a community be left to get on our lives free from sectarian intruders? GARC will continue to oppose all further acts of sectarian oppression and bigotry.

It was also shameful to hear S/F’s Carol Cullen and others insult North Belfast parents by threatening to report families to the Social Services and Housing Executive for alleged involvement in recent unrest.

We strongly reject S/F smearing every family. It is a gross insult to the local community! Will she stand by her colleague, Gerry Kelly regarding his alleged assault on a youth person on the Crumlin Road? Will she be reporting him to the Social Services? Will Ms. Cullen also report the PSNI for firing over 70 lethal Plastic Bullets at teenagers and young children?

Before during and after the Twelfth, we called on everyone especially the youth to refrain from acts of violence as it would only detract attention away from the core issue: SECTERIAN PARADES. Our Collective is totally opposed to recreational rioting! (In future, S/F should get its facts right before it circulates another leaflet of lies) Greater Ardoyne residents remember S/F Leaders sending our youth out to take on the Crown Forces and Loyalist bigots in street battles on many occasions when it suited their own Movement’s agenda!

Finally, the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective stress that we are NOT affiliated to any political group or party.


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