16 September 2005

LOCKDOWN

Irelandclick.com

• Loyalist gangs take control of North Belfast Streets
• Schools targeted during week of terror attacks
• Man attacked with golf clubs

Our Lady of Mercy targeted with burning car

Our Lady of Mercy Girls’ Secondary School bore the brunt of a vicious fire attack on its premises this week.
As the staff and its pupils returned to school on Monday morning, they discovered the shell of a car burnt out outside the school’s entrance.
The car had been rammed in an attempt to break down the school’s heavy gates and was then set alight.
The burning vehicle caught fire to the front porch area and caused major smoke damage to the building.
Throughout the week, anxious parents have called to the school to collect their children early due to the city-wide loyalist protests.
The protests have blocked major arterial routes which Translink’s buses use to transport children home.
Principal of Our Lady of Mercy Peter Daly said he had called the PSNI to the school on Monday afternoon to protect the children going home on buses.
“We have to try and keep everything as normal as possible. We’ve got the gate fixed, which is good. But I thought we’d be better safe than sorry and I called the police. At least this way, if nothing happens it’s okay, but if something did kick off I’d know that our pupils would be escorted down the road on the buses.”
Other schools in North Belfast had pupils leaving early for fear of being caught up in loyalist violence, including St Gabriel’s Boys’ School on the Crumlin Road.

Loyalist gangs take control of North Belfast streets

North Belfast bore the brunt of petrol, blast and paint bomb attacks on Saturday while loyalist mobs took control of roads and hemmed Catholic communities into their homes.
The violence was widespread across the area with significant acts of violence and intimidation taking place in North Queen Street, Ardoyne and Ligoniel.
In Ardoyne tensions were simmering for most of the week and community workers were patrolling the area until 5am on Sunday morning. The same workers were out on the streets at 8am.
A car was set on fire at the rear of Holy Cross church on the Woodvale Road on Saturday and petrol bombs were also thrown at Brookfield Mill on the Crumlin Road later that day.
On Sunday afternoon a young boy of 11 years was accosted by a gang of men wearing Rangers shirts on the Berwick Road in Ardoyne and threatened with his life.
Sinn Féin councillor for the area Margaret McClenaghan said nationalists had been taunted all weekend.
“We just tried to make sure that no one rose to the bait,” she said.
“The tension has been building up here for the past two weeks now and we were worried it was going to spiral out of control, because it’s clear that people have had enough.
“But even though loyalists tried to entice young ones in Ardoyne to engage in violence, it didn’t work.”
The councillor said concerns mounted considerably yesterday when she was informed that a 300-strong crowd was to be escorted by the PSNI down the Crumlin Road from the loyalist stronghold of Ballysillan in groups of five or six to attend a rally organised by the Orange Order. The rally was later cancelled.
“If it had have happened basically they would have been facilitating a march down the footpath,” Margaret McClenaghan said.
In another frightening incident, two brothers, their elderly mother and their 11-year-old nephew were surrounded by an angry mob of loyalists at the Fortwilliam slip road off the M2 motorway.
The family from Ardoyne were told to “get the f**k out the car” and told to hand over the keys by the 30-strong mob who were wielding handguns, baseball bats and iron bars.
“At that part of the road you can’t see round the bend so all of us panicked when we saw them,” the man said.
“We stopped the car, and they were like bees swarming all over the car. They pulled us out and we were left stranded while they set it on fire. The cops were literally a hundred yards away and they didn’t do a thing.
“My mother was in a terrible state. She’s a pensioner and she’s got a bad heart. Her legs were like jelly as we tried to run away towards the cops. They said they couldn’t help, they were stretched as it was.
“Me and my brother, we tried to warn other drivers but it was too late. It ended up my car and three other cars went up in smoke.”
The victim said he and his group were left stranded on Fortwilliam slip road for half an hour before an off-duty nurse gave them a lift to the Cavehill Road.

Man attacked with golf clubs

An Ardoyne man and his elderly mother-in-law were mobbed by a group of women and a teenager wielding a golf club as they tried to avoid a loyalist protest.
The Royal Victoria Hospital employee who was driving into Dunnes on the Crumlin Road to bypass the blocked roads suddenly found himself surrounded.
The teenager with the golf club smashed the rear window of the car first, then the side windows before breaking the windscreen through.
“I was wearing my uniform because I had just finished work in the Royal.
“I’d picked my mother-in-law up and we were driving home when we started having problems on the roads.
“Cambrai Street was blocked off and Hillview was closed so we tried to get into Dunnes Stores.
“A group of ten or 12 women started on us and when they saw my uniform they called me a ‘fenian bastard’ and that’s when the windows started coming in.”
The incident happened around 4.30pm on the Crumlin Road and has left both passengers extremely shaken.
“The whole experience was terrible.
“If this was supposed to be a peaceful protest... I can tell you there was nothing peaceful about it.
“I’m just really upset about it and disappointed that it happened in the first place.”

Double standards over loyalist violence says SF

The loyalist lockdown showed no signs of abating today after five days and nights of protracted loyalist blockades and rioting gripped North Belfast and other areas.
As the rioting, which started on Saturday after the rerouting of the controversial Whiterock Parade brought many arterial routes to gridlock and saw scenes of some of the worst rioting witnessed here in years, the British government announced that it no longer recognised the UVF ceasefire.
However controversially no such moves have been made to specify the UDA who the PSNI Chef Constable Hugh Orde also blamed for the violence.
At midnight on Tuesday night, the UVF became a "specified" organisation, along with the Red Hand Commando.
David Ervine of the PUP said the move was “hardly unexpected” and he described it as "tragic and it would mean that there would be more ground to cover once the UVF was restored to the political process”.
The move against the UVF means that membership charges can be brought against those who belong to the organisation.
The Secretary of State said he took his decision after reviewing evidence about the weekend violence and an IMC report on UVF participation in a feud with the LVF that has left four men dead.
He said the move should be an "absolutely crystal clear signal that violence will not be tolerated".
In a contrasting statement Secretary of State Peter Hain however declared that the UDA ceasefire remains officially intact but under review.
He said his decision to ban the UVF was based on a catalogue of violence.
PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde had blamed both loyalist groups for taking part in gun attacks on police at the weekend. In one case, PSNI captured footage of a gunman operating in Highfield, an estate dominated by the UDA.
As it became clear that the NIO would rule the UVF had breached its ceasefire, the UDA issued a statement calling for the street violence to end.
"We are instructing our own membership to avoid any confrontation on the streets and steer away from any acts of violence,” said the North Belfast brigade.
The UDA called on politicians to use their influence to help restore order.
The Secretary of State said the activities of the UDA and other paramilitary groups would remain "under close inspection and scrutiny" by the IMC.
"The UDA is part of that. We will continue to monitor it day by day and week by week,” he said.
"I did note the statement from the UDA calling for an end to street violence, and that is very welcome."
The UDA lost recognition of its ceasefire in 2001, only regaining that status last year.
Over 60 people have been arrested this week in connection with the violence.
Unionists said there had been a build-up of resentment within their community because of the government's handling of the peace process.
SDLP North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness said the senior leadership of the DUP has still not offered a word or line of condemnation of the weekend violence.
“The DUP must get the prize for selective condemnation. After the Ardoyne riots they said the intense violence which left so many police officers injured was a scandal and a disgrace.
“They also reckoned the use of blast bombs showed premeditated, organised violence,” he said.
“Strangely, the DUP website offers no such assessment of the events of last weekend. There is plenty of condemnation – of the police, the Parades Commission, US Envoy Mitchell Reiss, the British government and the entire nationalist population - but not a word about petrol-bombers, blast bombers or gunmen.”
Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly said that the Orange Order and Unionist need to accept responsibility for loyalist violence.
“The Orange Order and Unionist must accept responsibility for the widespread and orchestrated loyalist violence of recent days.
“In addition to the violence we have all witnessed on our television screens there were also attacks across the north on nationalist homes and property.
“The ambivalence, hypocrisy and double standards that unionists and Orange leaders have shown over recent days is astounding.
“Had these protests been organised by nationalists or republicans, then they would have been forcibly removed long ago as happened in Ardoyne on July 12 to facilitate an Orange march.
“Yet loyalists can disrupt Belfast with apparent impunity as the PSNI look on.”

Gunnell Hill attack

A Protestant couple were forced to leave their home in Whitecity and a Catholic home suffered scorch damage during trouble on the Whitewell at the weekend.
Houses on both sides of the sectarian divide were damaged during the weekend of serious violence after Orangemen were barred from walking the Springfield Road on Saturday.
A house was one of a number that came under attack by petrol bombers in the Gunnell Hill in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The petrol bombs caused damage to the roof and water tank that flooded the electrics in the house.
During the attacks, nationalist homes in Serpentine Gardens came under attack by loyalists. A house on Serpentine Road was scorch damaged.
UPRG member John Montgomery claimed the attacks on Whitecity were completely unprovoked.
Whitewell community worker Paul McKernon condemned attacks on Protestant and Catholic homes.
A spokeswoman for the Housing Executive confirmed the attacked home on Gunnell Hill had been temporarily vacated.
“The family has been provided with temporary accommodation within the immediate vicinity while their home is being repaired and local staff will remain in close contact with them.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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