13 July 2005

Same old story

Daily Ireland

Andrea McKernon and Áine McEntee

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Blast bombs were thrown and plastic bullets fired in north Belfast last night. Rioting broke out after a disputed Orange Order parade went past the nationalist Ardoyne district. Two Catholic teenagers were struck by plastic bullets believed to have been fired by the PSNI. Several people were injured, including two journalists, after at three blast bombs were thrown at police lines. Dozens of petrol bombs were thrown at the PSNI and British army.

Trouble erupted after the PSNI tried to force nationalists off the Crumlin Road as Orangemen approached the Ardoyne shops. Fr Gary Donegan, from Holy Cross church in Ardoyne, tried to restore calm to the area and was targeted by a PSNI water cannon.

“Myself and Fr Aidan Troy were in the area to try and defuse the situation among the young people. We tried to get close to the young people when the water cannons were turned on and we both got soaked,” he said.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, who was in Ardoyne, said he and north Belfast assembly member Gerry Kelly had contacted the British and Irish governments after the rioting erupted.

“The amount of hard work that was done to keep things calm in the face of this provocative loyalist parade was wasted by the actions of the PSNI.

“I think the people of Ardoyne have shown tremendous patience and discipline,” he said.

Earlier yesterday, nationalist residents from the Ardoyne area staged a peaceful sit-down protest on the Crumlin Road to highlight their frustration at the Orange Order’s refusal to engage in dialogue. The PSNI described the morning protest as illegal. It was organised by local residents after the Orange Order decided to push ahead with its controversial route. Around 40 protesters sat down in the road and linked arms in solidarity in the face of hundreds of PSNI and British army officers dressed mostly in riot gear, with water canons and hundreds of metres of steel.

The Parades Commission announced it would not be reviewing its approval of the Orange Order’s outward or return route despite Sunday morning’s arson attack by loyalists against a Catholic family on the Crumlin Road.
The Orange Order has repeatedly refused to talk to Ardoyne residents. Speaking to Daily Ireland yesterday, a spokesman for the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland said the organisation did not believe it was constructive to talk to residents from Ardoyne.

“It is not Grand Orange Lodge policy to discuss with Sinn Féin/IRA-fronted residents. We do talk to genuine residents’ groups who are genuinely affected by the parade,” he said. Supporters of the protesters yesterday held aloft banners that said “Parades Commission should promote dialogue, not reward rejectionists”. Gerry Adams and north Belfast assembly members Gerry Kelly and Kathy Stanton attended the protest to show their support for the protest as well as help calm tensions.

The Parades Commission refused to comment on the actual parade. However, it said: “Every parade is considered individual and in its own context. The commission facilitates and promotes dialogue wherever it can.”

Last year’s July 12 parade along the same route in north Belfast resulted in violence, as did the Tour of the North loyalist march on June 17 this year.

At around 8.30am yesterday, PSNI officers in riot gear and shields charged in and removed protesters from the Crumlin Road and put them behind a barricade of Land Rovers in front of the Ardoyne shops. Sheets of high-density metal were driven in on lorries and attached to make a wall roughly one mile (1.6 kilometres) long.
The barricade hemmed in Catholic residents, who were separated from the Orangemen and their supporters making their way to the main July 12 demonstrations in Belfast.

Mr Adams said it was imperative that the Orange Order engage in dialogue. “The key focus here is that there’s no reason why everyone should not be able to look forward to the Twelfth and particularly the Orangemen who want to celebrate, if they would only talk to residents. That all the hassle and stress and the potential for injury and death could all be taken out of it would be a huge step."

A PSNI spokesperson said it was too early to estimate the cost of the huge military operation, which began with personnel moving into Ardoyne on Monday and removing concrete bollards. The PSNI said there were no arrests following yesterday morning’s protest.

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