It is feared that several nights of orchestrated rioting in
north and east Belfast could be the precursor of weeks of
sectarian interface violence.
Youths clashed for four nights this week in the Ardoyne area of
north Belfast. The area has also endured another spate of
distressing sectarian attacks on family homes, while a marathon
rioting session also flared at an east Belfast interface.
Petrol and paint bombs and other missiles were thrown by more
than 100 people in Ardoyne on Sunday and Monday night. A
crossbow bolt was also fired at nationalists from the Glenbryn
estate, a stronghold of the unionist paramilitary UDA.
Sinn Fein accused the UDA of involvement in the violence and
warned their members were "flexing their muscles". Local
councillor Margaret McClenaghan said PSNI police watched from
their Land Rovers as community workers "were getting stoned from
behind police lines".
The rioting was followed by spate of sectarian attacks. Paint
bombs were thrown by youths at several nationalist homes in the
Alliance Avenue and Ardoyne Road area at 11am on Wednesday
morning. This followed a series of at least six attacks in north
Belfast on Tuesday night, including some retaliatory attacks on
the homes of unionists.
A three-month-old baby was showered with glass and paint and two
other young children were also hurt during one attack on
Catholic homes in the Cliftondene area.
The children's mother pleaded in vain with a group of four
loyalist youths before her home came under fire from paint and
petrol bombs. Windows were broken in the incident and paint and
glass rained down on the children and their mother. A petrol
bomb failed to ignite.
The gang escaped on foot leaving behind a crate of bottles
filled with paint which had been meant to target more Catholic
Last night, further clashes broke out in north Belfast, with
petrol bombs and other missiles hurled by dozens of youths in
the Brompton and Cranbrook areas. Sinn Fein has urged young
nationalists not to get involved in the ongoing violence.
Meanwhile, nationalist residents of the Short Strand came under
fire from missiles emanating from the unionist Cluan Place area
on Monday. Some 400 nationalists and unionists were involved in
eight hours of rioting at the Clandeboye Gardens/Cluan Place
Residents of the nationalist enclave say they now fear a
repetition of the summer of 2002, which saw the same interface
endure months of violent sectarian clashes.
Up to five rounds were fired from the unionist Cluan Place
during the violence, which erupted at around 6pm on Saturday and
lasted until 2.30am on Sunday.
Strike marks were visible on the gable wall of a house in the
nationalist Clandeboye Gardens. Broken bottles, bricks and a
pipe bomb were also hurled over the peace wall.
Residents and politicians said simmering tensions between rival
groups appeared to have reached boiling point on Saturday
following a soccer game between Glasgow Celtic and Rangers.
Sinn Fein representative Deborah Devenney said the community had
been under attack from loyalists since Wednesday.
"These people cannot live like this. They don't deserve to live
like this. It's totally disgraceful. I am willing to talk to any
unionist politician to try and resolve this," she said.
Meanwhile, the British government has come under pressure to
declare obsolete the professed ceasefires of the unionist
paramilitary UVF and UDA.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan expressed astonishment that British
Direct Ruler Peter Hain has yet to give the assessment on the
Ulster Volunteer Force - an organisation which has recently
killed four men as part of its vicious feud with the splinter
Loyalist Volunteer Force.
Mr Durkan pointed to recent death threats received by Raymond
McCord, whose son was killed by the UVF in 1997 and who has been
a vehement critic of the group, and the ongoing vendetta of the
UDA against the Sunday World newspaper.
"It is demoralising for decent people that the secretary of
state has remained speechless.
"He still will not say what everybody knows: that loyalist
paramilitaries have broken their ceasefires.
"Just what is it that needs to happen before the Northern
Ireland Office think that the UVF has broken its ceasefire. How
many more killings does it take?"
* A major ferry line has banned Glasgow Rangers supporters from
travelling as foot passengers to football games because of the
sectarian behaviour of a number of fans returning from Glasgow
to Belfast last Saturday.
According to Stena lines, passengers complained when some of the
500 Rangers fans returning from Saturday's soccer game against
Celtic began to sing threatening songs.
One passenger later told BBC radio: "The supporters, they
weren't even singing football songs, it was about killing
Catholics, and named Catholics that have been shot dead."