SAME OLD STORY
Immense anger has lingered in the nationalist Ardoyne community
after a Protestant Orange Order parade and a mob of followers
were forced theough the area on Monday evening.
Monday was the pinnacle of the Protestant marching season with
tens of thousands of Orangemen marching to commemorate
Protestant William of Orange's victory over Catholic James II at
the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
The Orange Order has repeatedly refused to talk to local
residents about their opposition to the march.
As a compromise, the government-appointed Parades Commission
ruled that only the Orangemen themselves, and not their loutish
and drunken supporters, would be allowed to march past the
nationalist Ardoyne shops on their way back from a central
gathering in south Belfast.
However, an extraordinary and secret deal involving the Orange
Order, unionist paramilitaries and the PSNI allowed the "hangers
on" to march through the area in defiance of the Parades
As the mob sauntered up the road, they waved unionist
paramilitary flags, made triumphalist gestures and hurled
sectarian abuse at nationalists behind the barricades.
Nationalists, pent up behind giant steel barriers, were
predictably enraged. Street battles quickly ensued as locals
vented their fury. Bottles, bricks and rocks began to fly in
both directions and the situation rapidly deteriorated.
Briitsh Crown forces used water cannon and baton-charges to push
nationalists back and protect the marchers.
Nationalist politicians, including former IRA man Gerry Kelly,
were barracked and booed as they intervened to protect 15
British soldiers who were under attack. Kelly was assaulted by
one republican and had his wrist broken by a baton-wielding
member of the PSNI.
A 51-year-old man died of a heart attack as chaos enveloped the
area for several hours.
One community worker said nationalist trust had been "smashed to
smithereens". Holy Cross parish priest Fr Aidan Troy described
the events as "a huge break down in trust" between nationalists,
the Parades Commission and police.
Nationalists felt betrayed and felt the Parades Commission had
"washed their hands" of the parade, he said.
The 26-County Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, condemned the violence
and described it as "deeply regrettable and disturbing"
He expressed concern at the handling of the march. "It's now
important to establish precisely what happened and to see what
lessons can be learned," he added.
The position of the Parades Commission, which was introduced
after the Drumcree conflagrations in the mid 90s and whose
rulings were understood to have legal effect, is now uncertain.
Mounting frustration among grassroots nationalists will have
repercussions for talks on the peace process planned for
Sinn Fein has been strongly criticised for the apparent failure
of its peace efforts to win equality for nationalists, while the
rival SDLP has come under immense pressure to follow through on
a stated commitment and end its support for the PSNI.
Mr Adams praised Sinn Fein politicians for working to create
calm in the area on Monday, but warned against underestimating
the seriousness of the situation.
Mr Adams was accompanied by Mr Gerry Kelly, who had his arm in a
sling as a result of the violence. They said they expected tough
talking from Ardyone residents at meeting in the area today.
Mr Adams said residents had suffered from "the same old story".
"Nationalists were hemmed in, were beaten and the loyalists were
shepherded through. Orange marches should not be permitted to go
where they are not wanted.
"If they want to go somewhere they should come and talk."
He pointed out that a nationalist march would have been severely
restricted. Unionists within the British system got their way,
but he warned nationalists would not accept their triumphalism.
The number of protesters in Ardoyne illustrated the scale of the
anger, he said. "Croppies are not lying down, we are not taking
it any longer.
"We want to extend the hand of friendship, but we won't have it
Two more loyalist parades are planned for Ardoyne next month.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
5pm- Large numbers of police and British Army seal off Ardoyne
residents from Crumlin Road in North Belfast. Two PSNI water
cannon's on standby at junction of Woodvale Raod
6pm-Troops erect a 100m steel wall along the length of Ardoyne
shops. Nationalist residents held behind heavy police lines,
while 300 loyalist waiting for the parade to arrive at Twaddell
Av stand behind crash barriers.
6.30pm-Senior north Belfast loyalist tells reporters that deal
has already been agreed with police to allow parade supporters
to march past Ardoyne.
7pm-Up to 800 loyalists congregate at Hesketh Road on upper
Crumlin RD pushing soldiers back towards Ardoyne, Catholic
families living in Summerdale Park and Ingeldale park now behind
7.45-Three buses of loyalist bandsmen driven past Ardoyne,
Bandsmen disembark and play the sash at loyalist lines.
8pm-Stones thrown from both sides as Orangemen march past
Ardoyne. One steward physically assaults and threatens
8.15-Up to 400 loyalist allowed to march past Ardoyne shops.
Well known loyalist paramilitaries clearly seen in crowd, who
chant paramilitary slogans.
8.30pm-Serous trouble breaks out on Ardoyne Road between
residents and army as loyalist crowd gathers at Glenbryn.
8.45pm-Situation calmed down as senior Republicans position
themselves between army lines and angry residents, Sinn Fein's
Gerry Kelly struck by baton.
9pm-Police use water cannon against stone-throwers at junction
of Brompton Park in Ardoyne Area calm but tense as community
leaders try to bring youths under control.
10pm-Rioting dies down