A nationalist community in Belfast has been subjected to a nightly onslaught of bottles, nuts, bolts, golf balls, bricks and paintballs before being hemmed in by a wall of steel on Wednesday evening to allow a loyalist parade by the anti-Catholic Orange Order pass by.
The Short Strand is a tiny nationalist area almost completely surrounded by loyalist districts in east Belfast. The Orange Order’s ‘Mini Twelfth’ parade took place this week in the adjoining streets following a military-style operation to erect a solid steel barricade around the Catholic enclave.
Among the bands taking part in the parade were the YCV and Pride of Ardoyne flute bands, both of which have engaged in multiple sectarian provocations over recent years.
Steel security barriers used to fence off the Short Strand have been deployed during the parade since 2013. Water cannon were also on standby this year, but in the end the parade passed off without major violence.
Sinn Fein councillor Niall O Donnghaile said that while “by and large” the parade had passed off peacefully the security operation was “not a good policing experience for the people of this area”.
Sectarian attacks on Catholic homes in Bryson street have been incessant for over a year now, and there have been several orchestrated attacks at the interface over the last month.
Bricks and bottles were thrown into Bryson Street at around 2.30am on Sunday. This followed after a paint bomb attack on homes on the same street, at around midnight, again from the loyalist Thistle Court area.
Flares and other missiles were also hurled at Catholic-owned homes in the Bryson Street and Bryson Gardens area of Short Strand in recent days.
In the latest incident on Monday night, PSNI seized petrol bombs following attacks on nationalist homes.
Earlier in the week, sectarian graffiti warning Catholics to stay out of ‘our roads’ also appeared on walls on the Ravenhill and Woodstock Roads. A slogan written on a wall at Woodstock Road includes the warning: “No S/S (Short Strand) Taigs [Catholics] on our roads”. Residents from the Short Strand area would regularly use shops in the area.
In a statement, Republican Sinn Fein said a serious situation was being ignored by the PSNI.
“Once again the Crown police forces have shown their true colours. So much for the ‘reformed police’ we have heard so much of,” they said.
“These sectarian attacks have been happening all too often and show that for many in the Occupied Six Counties life has changed little over these past few years, there has been no ‘peace benefit’.”
The Republican Network for Unity also urged solidarity with the besieged residents of the Short Strand.
“The continuing sectarian attacks on the people of the Short Strand illustrates the unchanging reality of life for large sections of the nationalist community in Belfast and throughout the North of Ireland,” they said.