Unionist paramilitaries gear up for the summer
There are growing fears within nationalist communties throughout
the north that unionist paramilitaries are already attempting to
heighten tensions in a run-up to the Orange marching season.
Nationalist homes on Alliance Avenue in North Belfast came under
sustained attack for the second weekend in a row when unionist
paramilitaries bombarded homes with bricks, bottles, rocks, and
large pieces of slate, metal bars, and bolts.
Trouble began without warning or provocation in the early evening
of Sunday last. Fearful parents rushed outside to protect their
young children as a seemingly endless barrage of debris sailed
over a three-storey high "peaceline" wall from the unionist
One woman was horrified when she emerged to find her two-year-old
sitting on her toy bicycle in the front garden while bricks and
bottles struck the ground around her.
"Last year was the same," said the woman, "You never got
here. But with the start of the good weather recently, I put her
toys out, her wee bike and all. I was inside for only a minute
when I heard something hit the door. I came out thinking it was a
child kicking a ball."
The projectiles were lobbed so powerfully and from such a height
that they even managed to damage vehicles and homes on the
opposite side of Alliance Avenue. The attack lasted for several
hours and nationalist residents report that they also heard at
least six shots being fired from the Glenbryn area.
PUP man Billy Hutchinson denies the claim. Hutchinson blames
republicans for firing the shots, saying the reports "just add
insult to injury" and that the shots were fired from the
nationalist Ardoyne estate.
But Sinn Fein's Margaret McClenaghan, who had actually been on
the scene that afternoon, is sure that the recent attacks are
part of a co-ordinated attempt by unionist paramilitaries to
stoke sectarian tensions in interface areas.
"Nothing was thrown from Alliance," says McClenaghan, "The
shooting came from Glenbryn after sustained stoning and people
are very concerned and very angry.
"When the UDA issued their ceasefire statement we said that we
would judge it by their actions on the ground. Since then the UDA
have involved themselves in a number of incidents. In the past
week we have seen attacks in North Belfast, West Belfast and East
Belfast, and a few weeks ago unionists attacked homes in the
Lower Ormeau area."
"It is now apparent to all how serious the UDA was about their
ceasefire and what is particularly worrying is what appears to be
a co-ordinated upsurge in unionist paramilitary activity
One nationalist mother told An Phoblacht that she is unable to
allow her young daughter to play outside at all anymore.
"She is not safe in the back garden and she is not safe in the
front either. The window of her bedroom was shattered on Sunday.
She was in her bed sleeping when it happened. I heard the smash
and the breaking glass and I heard her squealing. I ran to the
room, afraid of what I would find. It took me an hour to calm
her. She was really frightened."
"During the trouble last year she had gotten so used to the
attacks on our home that she would actually hear the noise and
say, 'Mummy, bold boys, throwing stones, bold boys.' She was
just over a year old, just starting to walk. It was one of her
"You never see any kids out in the street playing or out in their
gardens. The young ones are always kept in, and trying to keep
them in, is difficult."
Residents who have asked the Housing Executive to relocate them
for their family's safety have been told there are people in
greater need than they are.
"We first applied to be relocated more than a year ago," said
one nationalist resident, "Unionists who lived in the abandoned
homes directly on the other side of the wall also asked to be
moved. A year later they are gone but we are still waiting. And
those empty houses are where the attacks on our homes are coming
"The Housing Executive doesn't live here," added another resident
angrily, "This is a lovely street, but no one can enjoy it when
its like this. The weather turned nice, kids wanted out and then
this has started again. You can't go out. You can't sit in your
garden and enjoy the sunshine."
"You can't leave your kids alone for a second", said one young
mother, "You have to watch what's going on, are they alright. You
don't even know if you're going to be safe in your own house at
"The 'police' arrive, look around for a few minutes and leave
again. It's the same with the local media. You couldn't pay them
to take an interest. They don't even bother to come out anymore."
Another woman remarked that the recent events reminded her of
days she hoped were long past.
"It's just like the start of the troubles," she said, "If
I go to
make a cup of tea, my daughter will say to me, 'Mummy, don't put
the lights on.' I can remember my own mother saying that to me
when the troubles first broke out - don't turn on the light."