UNIONISTS ISSUE DEMANDS
Unionist paramilitaries involved in intense violence on the
streets of Belfast have demanded the British government end what
it described as the "suppression and containment" of Protestants
in the North of Ireland.
A week of organised rioting that brought mayhem to Belfast and
surrounding towns began when the route of a parade by the
Protestant Orange Order was moved away from a republican area of
Unionist paramilitary gunmen opened fire on police and soldiers
as petrol and blast bombers went on the rampage throughout the
city and on into County Antrim and County Down. The two main
unionist paramilitary organisations, the UDA and UVF, used text
messages to Protestant teenagers to organise some of the
heaviest rioting in recent years.
Although the rioting and road blockades have now subsided, the
UDA yesterday issued a statement in which it said it would not
"stand idly by and allow injustice and inequality to run rife
through our community".
The UDA also deplored what it described as "the political use"
of British Army and PSNI police against what it described as
"the majority population in Northern Ireland".
In common with mainstream unionist politicians, the UDA blamed
Protestant "frustration and alienation" for the riots.
The statement declared: "We demand a clear and unequivocal
announcement from the British Government that the Protestant
community deserves the right to live in peace without the fear
of suppression and containment."
Talks are underway with the British government to prevent
further rioting amid unionist demands for greater funding for
The British Direct Ruler, Peter Hain, has signalled he plans to
act on proposals he received from both Ian Paisley's Democratic
Unionists and the Ulster Unionist Party.
"That will show this is not a one-sided government," Mr Hain
The release of former UDA 'brigadier' Jim Gray on bail yesterday
was being seen as an early concession to the UDA. Unionists had
virulently complained following the release of IRA Volunteer
Sean Kelly in the run-up to the statement by the Provisional IRA
last month, in which it declared an end to its armed struggle.
POVERTY OR POLITICS?
Ian Paisley's party is also leading demands that the Parades
Commission be dissolved. The DUP has reportedly insisted that
the body -- set up in recent years to make rulings on the routes
of contentious sectarian parades -- be scrapped as a
prerequisite for the resumption of power sharing in the North.
Sinn Fein accused the DUP of wanting to "get its own way" on
North Belfast assembly member Gerry Kelly said Ian Paisley's
party was trying to "turn back the clock" to the days of a
"We only have to look at the bad leadership shown by the DUP
over the past months culminating in this week's violence and the
fire and brimstone language that came from the party's
leadership before last Saturday's march that highlights the
politics of intransigence which epitomises their current
approach," he added.
The DUP has also dismissed as "fantasy" any idea of it taking
part in early negotiations with Sinn Fein over power-sharing.
The largest unionist party said it will not enter into early
talks with Sinn Fein even if the IRA disarms. The IRA is widely
expected to announce the completion of decommissioning over the
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said the British government had
decided to do a deal with republicans which the DUP was not
"They will find short shrift from us if they think they can act
in this way and then just expect us to meekly acquiesce in their
plans to get Sinn Fein into government," Mr Dodds said.
Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness has said that the
two governments must not allow the DUP to set the pace of
"The leaders of unionism and the Orange Order are harking back
to the old days of unionist domination that are gone forever.
There will be no going back," he said.
Mr McGuinness recalled that, following the British general
election in May, the DUP had declared the emergence of a "new
"Yet when we look at the events of recent days and weeks and the
summer of sectarian violence we see the opposite. Continuing
negative leadership form unionist leaders serves only to further
demoralise their own community. Unionist communities deserve
Mr McGuinness referred to economic evidence which counters
recent claims by unionist politicians that their communities are
suffering in comparison with nationalist area.
"Poverty and deprivation must of course be tackled right across
society. We can best do this by working together. But this must
be on the basis of delivering equality. This means genuinely
targeting social need rather than perpetuating myths and
misleading analysis about where and why deprivation exists.
"Sinn Fein want to see immediate political progress. We want to
see the momentum maintained and increased.
"However, if the DUP is unwilling to break out of its negative
cycle and begin to show the positive leadership which the
political process and also their own community require and
deserve, then the two government need to push ahead with the
full implementation of the Agreement.
"In particular they must deliver on the equality agenda and
begin at last to make a difference to deprived and disadvantaged
DPP DECISION ATTACKED
Meanwhile, SDLP leader Mark Durkan launched a blistering verbal
attack on unionists over the weekend.
Mr Durkan criticised unionist politicians for their willingness
to sit down and talk to loyalist paramilitaries on one hand
while withdrawing from policing boards on the other.
Outraged that members of the DUP and UUP have withdrawn from the
Belfast District Policing Partnership (DPP), Mr Durkan said:
"This is another pathetic move by people who have shown
themselves to be leaderless and lacking any coherent instinct as
to how to take things forward."
He remarked that a situation has now emerged whereby unionist
parties cannot bear to sit on the DPP yet they continue to deal
with the North and West Belfast Parades Forum which consists of
"They prefer to sit in cahoots and collaboration with
paramilitaries who carried out the sort of violence we saw last
week," he said.
"They are saying that they want to sit around the table with the
people who carried out the violence and that they can't bear to
sit with the police.
"It gives every impression that the loyalist tail is wagging the
"Unionists need to get a grip of where they are going and what
they are doing.
"They need to look at what signal they are sending out to their