DUP using Brexit to kill Good Friday Agreement

LET’S leave aside the intricacies of backstop, and backstop to backstop and have a look at the state of play here.

In the midst of the chaos of the civil war in the Conservative party and the British cabinet two conclusions are clear. First, the role the DUP has played as usual idiots to assist this British government clinging to power – because that’s their sole function – has released dangerous elements in unionism from paying even lip service to the Good Friday Agreement. Secondly, the way that Arlene Foster has zealously carried a sandwich board for Brextremists both in England and here means it’s unlikely she will ever be first minister again.

That’s not only because her language and behaviour have rendered her repellent to nationalists but also because, choosing to side with the dinosaurs in her party, she has boxed herself into a corner where she is unable to deliver any deal with Sinn Féin. As a consequence of all that a return to a Stormont executive is improbable in the foreseeable future.

The other factor preventing a return to a devolved government is that the prime minister’s electoral dependence on the DUP has completely spancelled our clueless proconsul. Since she won’t contemplate an outside arbitrator, that means no other party can take her seriously as a chair because political necessity requires her to be partisan. Besides, look at the calendar. Brexit next March, local government elections in May and then the marching season. In between there’ll probably be an Irish election. Even if talks at Stormont produced a deal there would have to be an election to ratify it. When?

However, there isn’t going to be a deal because the people in ascendant in the DUP, the MPs, don’t want one. They all opposed the Good Friday Agreement and continue to do so, as do many, perhaps the majority, in the DUP. For these people Brexit is an opportunity to

Arlene Foster has left a trail splattered with bile giving no indication that she either wants or needs to reciprocate overtures from Sinn Féin

continue dismantling the GFA. One bonus of the hard border they want is to make redundant the North-South Ministerial Council which the DUP successfully worked hard to ignore and diminish over the past decade and Sinn Féin let them. Next, we hear the refrain from senior right wing Conservatives, including former conspicuous failures as proconsuls here, that the GFA can and should be changed. This theme has been taken up by their sandwich-board woman Foster. Brexit means the GFA has to change we hear. How, is not clear, but the DUP and their Conservative organ grinders are busily creating the climate for removing their undesirable bits, like the absence of a visible border. The DUP has already successfully prevented any meaningful meeting of the British-Irish Inter-governmental Conference, even though devolved government has collapsed.

If there were to be talks about restoring Stormont the starting point would be the deal Arlene Foster was unable to deliver in February. Since then she has hardened her position on the sticking points like the Irish language and equality provisions. If reports of the acrimonious DUP executive meeting last week are anything to go by, one of the main criticisms levelled at Foster was her attendance at the Donegal-Fermanagh match in Clones. That gives you an idea of the chances of making a deal with the DUP.

Instead of trying to move towards conciliating her political opposition in Sinn Féin Foster has scarcely uttered a constructive syllable in the last year. On the contrary, she has left splattered with bile giving no indication that she either wants or needs to reciprocate overtures from Sinn Féin.

As she found last February how, even if she wanted to, will she suddenly reverse direction and close a deal with people she denigrates? How would she convince her own party it’s a good idea, having spent so long dissing the whole project? It’s obvious now there is deep dissatisfaction with Foster in her own party. Its councillors are much exercised by the mess Foster made of RHI and the stench rising from the inquiry which they will have to explain when canvassing next May. Luckily for Foster there’s no heir apparent who wants to take over from her but she has written her own political P45.

With many thanks to: Brian Feeney and The Irish News for the original posting.

With its majority gone, it’s vital unionism understands the new Catholic sense of identity

Brexit and the declining influence of the Church could prove pivotal, says Malachi O’Doherty

Last week I was asked to launch a new collection of academic essays. It was the hardest job I had ever taken on, if the point was to sell copies of the book.

The Contested Identities Of Ulster Catholics (Palgrave, edited by Paul Burgess) costs a penny short of a hundred pounds, so there was no queue at all for it.

Academic publishers are only concerned to sell to libraries, but this book has a relevance that would make it valuable reading for our politicians and commentators.

In my launch speech I said that the biggest change on the political scene in Northern Ireland in my eventful lifetime is that the Union has become dependent on support from the Catholic community.

This has to be understood and engaged with by anyone interested in preserving the Union or dispensing with it.

Some people have not caught onto this yet. Theresa May has.

In a conversation she was reported to have had with Jacob Rees-Mogg last year, she is said to have expressed a fear that the “moderate nationalists” – her phrase – would react to a hard Brexit by opting for a united Ireland.

More recently, Newsnight reported that the Secretary of State – who should perhaps read this book, too, and a few others I could suggest – had decided not to call an election to the Assembly because a nationalist majority would leave her with no argument against a border poll.

On the other hand we have David Trimble and others arguing that the fear of a growing demand for a united Ireland is being whipped up by Sinn Fein and that it has no substance.

Unionism, it strikes me, is being uncommonly blithe about the changing context, having arguably overreacted in the past when it thought that the IRA was a real threat to the integrity of the UK, an estimation of the clout of republicans which was shared only by republicans themselves.

So the people who panicked in the past say there is no need to panic now, though the circumstances are radically different.

But it is good they are not panicking. It’s not so good that they are not noticing the breadth of change.

The first big change is that the unionist majority has gone. The proportionate rise in the Catholic population that was the bogey of much unionism throughout the history of Northern Ireland has arrived.

John Coakley, a contributor to the book, tells us it is expected that the 2021 census will reflect a Catholic majority.

This means that the Protestant Ulster that Ian Paisley senior sought to defend has gone.

The argument that the Union must be preserved to prevent Protestant Ulster being absorbed into its Romish neighbour is obsolete. An ex-argument.

So one of the traditional props of the Union, the call to arms in defence of the faith, is now only of historic interest. There can be no Union now other than one endorsed cross-community.

Yet there is a sectarian assumption at work there too, that identity matters more to Protestants than it does to Catholics.

Indeed, Anthony McIntyre alludes to this as a reality in his chapter where he says that unionists are much more concerned to defend the Union than nationalists are to get rid of it.

The implication is that unionists preserve the Union out of love for it, a passionate sense that their identity relies on it.

Catholics are different – they are more concerned about what side their bread is buttered on. But this diagnosis is tested by Brexit.

We may be discovering, through this experiment, aspects of the character of the northern Catholic community that we hadn’t weighed up before, like a possible preference among many – enough to make a difference – for mending relations in the North over uniting the island into a single jurisdiction. Who of us doesn’t feel more at home in Ballymena than in Ballinasloe?

But that is not the only question.

A conjunction of phenomena has emerged like a startling planetary alignment.

Catholic Ireland is being dissolved. Even if there still was a Protestant majority, and if Paisley was at his thunderous best, he could no longer claim that the Republic is a Catholic state being manipulated by the Papacy.

In fact, the idea is so laughable that some among us may need reminded that this was a powerful conviction in play during the Troubles period.

At the same time as we have a loosening of the grip of the Church over Irish Catholics, appalled by abuse scandals and entering into the general European trend towards secularisation, we have a counter force in the North in the form of the DUP, determined to resist same-sex marriage and abortion law reform.

So, at a time when we might have seen chauvinistic rages settle down, we have a new dividing line.

And this has led to disaffection with devolution in the North among Catholics and nationalists.

We can trace the collapse of Stormont to the RHI scandal and the denial of a standalone Irish Language Act, but if we look to why so many people don’t seem to care if it comes back or not, among Catholics and nationalists, distaste for the DUP and a lack of enthusiasm for restoring to it the power to block social reform is, I think, primary.

I suspect even Sinn Fein has been taken by surprise by this.

So forces are in play that were not in play during the Troubles: the demographic shift, secularisation North and South, and an aversion to the social conservatism of the DUP.

And Brexit.

Which might turn out fine.

Many serious unionists are confident that the Catholic community can be relied on, in sufficient numbers, to endorse the Union – though never calling themselves unionists – so we’ll put Stormont back up and either make a new bigger deal to secure it, or hobble on to the next breakdown.

But crucially, if the Protestant majority was the prop that secured the Union for a century, cross-community support is the only prop that can sustain it further, and that means that the de facto unionists in the Catholic community have to be kept onside.

Recognising that Catholic community support from now on must be a cornerstone of the Union, or there will be no Union, requires an appeal to the northern Catholic sense of identity in a future that may not include a British economy that is stronger than an Irish one.

Who can say our butter won’t be on the other side of the piece in a decade from now anyway?

The Contested Identities Of Ulster Catholics, edited by Paul Burgess, is published by Palgrave, £99.99

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the original story.

Time to come clean who profited from Council contributions to the DUP – Paisley dinner ?

Ian Paisley: Second council accused over dinner

Ian Paisley said a complaint had been made by “political rivals”

A second council has been accused of using ratepayers money to sponsor a table at an MP’s constituency dinner.
Causeway Coast and Glens Council paid £1,500 for the table at last September’s event hosted by the DUP’s Ian Paisley.
It was previously revealed Mid and East Antrim Borough Council had sponsored another table for the same sum.
That is now is being treated as a “donation” to the North Antrim MP by the Electoral Commission.
Causeway Coast and Glens council said the payment was within its guidelines.

Investigation into Paisley event money
Audit Office examining DUP event money
Councils are not considered “permissible donors” and money from such bodies must be returned.

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson said there are serious questions to be answered

In a letter to Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council said the money was paid directly to the Tullyglass Hotel which hosted the dinner.

But Mr Dickson said the payment raises serious questions.
“This is public money and we are now talking about two councils spending over £3,000 of ratepayers’ money for something that was billed – and is all over the local newspapers – as a DUP fundraising event,” he said.
“A dinner which was held in Ballymena by Ian Paisley MP and indeed was bragged about as a fundraising event by some of his councillors.”

The Alliance MLA said he was also concerned about how the decision to sponsor a table was taken.
“This wasn’t a decision by local councillors, this appears to have been taken entirely by council officers on the basis of a letter they received from an organisation which according to Mid and East Antrim, doesn’t even exist, ” he said.

Wider audit

In the letter seen by the BBC, the council said the “spend level for attendance” at the dinner “did not require councillors’ agreement in accordance with council’s procurement policy and specifically the delegated responsibility to officers”.
It added “you will therefore not find a specific council minute which relates to this matter”.
In a further statement, it said the keynote speaker at the event was MP Michael Gove and that subjects discussed included Brexit, passenger air tariffs and their impact upon tourism and business travel and the effect of public sector cuts upon rural services.
“Council agreed to attend the event and invite guests who would benefit from both the subject matter and the potential networking opportunities,” it said.

“Those guests included representatives of our hospitality, food distribution and production, agriculture and leisure industries with an emphasis on the rural aspects of the borough.”

The Northern Ireland Auditor’s office has confirmed it looked into the payment as part of a wider audit of Causeway Coast and Glens Council and will be making recommendations in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission has said it is aware of the payment made by the council, but can’t comment any further as its investigation is ongoing.

In a statement, Mr Paisley said he was “content to wait for the outcome of the commission’s inquiry” which he added “commenced after political rivals made a complaint”.
He said his “annual community and business engagement dinner in Ballymena was very successful and enjoyed by all who attended”.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story

“The question crying out to be answered, arising from the revelation that a second council paid £1500 for a table at a DUP associated dinner, is where did the profits from this dinner go, profits to which ratepayers contributed by paying £3000 to the hotel for the cost of the event.

“Patently, the £1500 contributed by each council, for a table of 10 in each case, exceeded the actual cost of the 10 dinners provided in each case. So, who benefitted from the surplus of public money that went towards paying the total hotel bill? Did it mean the DUP/Ian Paisley had a resulting smaller balance bill? If so, then, the DUP/Ian Paisley were beneficiaries of the council contributions.

“It is time the DUP/Ian Paisley published an audit showing the actual cost of the event and what the effect of the £3000 payments from councils had on the final bill that the party had to pay.

“Coming on the back of the Sri Lankan scandal and the ongoing RHI fiasco, this escapade of ratepayers money going towards a party event adds to the disrepute into which some have brought politics.”

With many thanks to the: Traditional Unionist Voice, tub.org.uk and statement from Jim Allister

Proposed Brexit Law if passed would ban paramilitary images being published.

CONTROVERSIAL legislation proposed by the British government will make it ‘illegal’ to publish images linked to the republican movement and loyalism and would be punishable with six months in prison.

The Terrorists were the British not the Irish and I will gladly spend six months in prison at HM expense but England has no control or power’s in Ireland. Ireland belongs to the Irish.

The proposied clampdown is contained in new the counter-terrorism and border security bill which is making its way through Westminster.

The Irish News revealed on Friday how planned legislation will result in the establishment of a mile-wide ‘stop-and-search border zone’. Now it has emerged that the bill also proposes to outlaw clothing and images associated with paramilitary activity. While other legislation, including the Terrorism Act, covers some of this ground, the proposed legislation will go further. There are 14 republican and loyalists organisations proscribed by the British government. Several of the groups, including the main republican and loyalist organisations, are on long-term ceasefire.

The planned legislation says that: “A PERSON commits an offence if the person publishes an image of – (a) an item of clothing, or (b) any other article, in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that the person is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation”. The proposed legislation says “an image is a reference to a still or moving image [produced by any means]”.

This means that anyone who published an image relating deemed to be in support of a paramilitary organisation would be breaking the law. How far this will be enforced is unclear but it is thought it could be applied to flags and other images associated with both republican and loyalists groups.

Human rights groups have voiced concern about the proposed legislation. Deputy director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), Daniel Holder said: “The reality is, as it stands, if these laws were in fact applied to the North of Ireland, there would be huge community alienation, street violence would probably erupt and the cause of peace would be put back immeasurably. “So if these counter-terrorism measures are not only useless but counter-productive for the North of Ireland, how are they appropriate for the rest of the UK?”

The CAJ and nationalist politicians have also voiced concern about the prospect of a ‘stop-and-search border zone’. If the bill becomes law any member of the public could be stopped within a mile of the border to establish if they are engaged in “hostile activity”. SDLP MLA Carmel Hanna last night said the proposals would be a “grotesque assault on border life and on the [Good Friday] agreement of which the UK government is a co-guarantor”. “The UK government appear to neither care nor understand the anxiety they are causing here,” she said.

SDLP MLA Carmel (Claire) Hanna

“At this point in the Brexit negotiations there is very little we could put past this government who seem prepared to sign up to almost anything in the name of Brexit and oblivious to the tension these proposals create.”

Sinn Féin deputy president Michelle O’Neill

Sinn Féin deputy president Michelle O’Neill accused the British government of “duplicity”. “The use of stop and search powers is already a cause of massive concern in nationalist areas and if powers as wide-ranging as these were introduced, it would be disastrous,” she said. “It runs counter to human rights provisions. It runs counter Good Friday Agreement and the principles of the European Common Travel Area. “I will be taking this up directly with both governments because it is clear that, through this legislation, London is preparing for the imposition of a hard border in Ireland.”

With many thanks to: Connla Young and The Irish News for the original story.

Irish News Editorial

Legislation must be scrutinised 

WHILE considerable attention has been focused on the Brexit withdrawal bill, another piece of legislation which could have far-reaching repercussions for the border has been making its way through Westminster largely unnoticed. The counter-terrorism and border security bill contains proposals that, if passed, could have alarming implications for people in the border area of the North of Ireland. Under the terms of the planned legislation, any member of the public could be stopped within a mile of the border to establish if they are entering or leaving the nort. An ‘examining officer’ may question the person to determine if they are engaged in ‘hostile activity’.

It is not clear if this means police or border force officers will be protrolling the border area, able to stop and question any person they wish without due cause. Obviously this would be viewed with deep concern, particularly at a time when efforts are under way to ensure there is no hard border on this Island following the UK’s departure from the EU in March next year. It is also worrying that this legislation, which contains other broadly-constructed measures that will raise serious concern, has already passed the Committee stage and could come into law before Christmas. These proposals must be subject to careful scrutiny and assessment with political representatives making sure we do not end up with a hard border as a result of Brexit or any other form of legislation.

With many thanks to: The Irish News.

UVF leader in meeting with DUP councillor about controversial bonefire

SENIOR loyalists, including a man believed to be a UVF leader, attended a meeting with a DUP councillor that ran until the early hours of the morning in a last-ditch effort to resolve a bonfire dispute in East Belfast.

Riot police at the Bloomfield walkway bonfire after it was set alight when mediation failed on Wednesday.

The Irish News has seen details of meetings that took place in the early hours of Wednesday, just hours before a bonfire at Bloomfield Walk-way was prematurely set on fire. Lee Reynolds, pictured below, the DUP group leader on Belfast City Council, was present at the meeting, as were Jamie Bryson and Stephen Matthews – widely believed to be the leader of the East Belfast UVF.

Lee Reynolds DUP group leader on Belfast City Council.

At 11.45pm on Tuesday Mr Reynolds and mediators met senior loyalists. Police were asked to attend but declined. The meeting took place hours after the High Court ruled that the landowner, the Department for Infrastructure, was responsible for the protection of life and property on its land at the walkway and that the pyre had to be removed or dramatically reduced in size.

LOYALIST: Stephen Matthews, widely believed to be the leader of the East Belfast UVF, was in attendance at the final-hour meetings.

The meeting lasted until after 1am with loyalists from the East Belfast Community Initiative, including Bryson and Matthews, going to the walkway to speak with a crowd of around 150 young people who had gathered at the site. This was done after speaking with mediators to calm tensions. There were fears at that time that the large crowd was preparing to engage in civil disorder and a large number of riot police were deployed to the area.

The bonfire builders were given the option to dismantle the bonfire themselves or told the PSNI and contractors – who were former members of the military – would take the material away, by force if necessary.

Contractors, ex military, protected by police, dismantle the Cluan Place bonfire later on Wednesday.

Bonfire builders refused to dismantle the pyre, which was five times the fire’s devices recommended height for the plot, saying they would sit on the wood to prevent it being moved. At 5am police moved in to start removing the material. At this stage only around 15 young people remained at the site. They set fire to the structure before fleeing, leaving fire crews to keep the blaze under control and hose down nearby properties. Masked contractors moved in and removed the remaining wood under the protection of riot police.

The same  contractors, protected by around 200 riot police, later removed a bonfire built in the middle of the road at Cluan Place in East Belfast. When asked about the talks, the East Belfast Community Initiative said the “late-night meetings took place with the view to trying to de-escalate tensions”. Who made up our delegation is a matter for ourselves. However, we can confirm that all attendees were present as representatives of EBCI. No-one in the delegation is a member of any proscribed organisation,” the spokesperson added. Mr Reynolds has been approached for comment.

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the original story.

Belfast riots: violence erupts in the Republican strong-hold of Ardoyne after Orange Order triumphant parade

Petrol bombs and bricks are hurled at police following a loyalist Glorious Twelth Orange Parade in Ardoyne, north Belfast.

Violence erupts in Ardoyne after Orange Order parade.

The loyal order march through the Ardoyne sectarian interface was peaceful but trouble flared nearby with crowds of several hundred confronting lines of riot police.

Fireworks, petrol bombs, stones, bricks and bottles were hurled at police lines and a burning silver BMW driven at officers in the residential neighbourhood of red-brick terraced houses.

A republican march through the same area shortly afterwards prompted an exchange of missiles between loyalists and nationalists.

Ardoyne has been the scene for trouble on this date for many years and has become a byword for intercommunal strife on that date, despite most people from the area disagreeing with violence.

With many thanks to the: Telegraph for the original story. 

Holy Cross, a Catholic primary school for girls, in the middle of a Protestant area.

In June 2001, Protestant loyalists began picketing the school, claiming that Catholics were regularly attacking their homes and denying them access to facilities. For weeks, hundreds of protesters tried to stop the schoolchildren and their parents from walking to school through their area. Some protesters shoutedsectarian abuse and threw stones, bricks, fireworks, blast bombs and urine-filled balloons at the schoolchildren and their parents. Hundreds of riot police, backed up byBritish soldiers, escorted the children and their parents through the protest each day. The “scenes of frightened Catholic schoolgirls running a gauntlet of abuse from loyalist protesters as they walked to school captured world headlines”. Death threats were made against the parents and school staff by the Red Hand Defenders, a loyalist paramilitary group. The protest was condemned by both Catholics and Protestants, including politicians. Some likened the protest to child abuse and compared the protesters to Americanwhite supremacists in 1950sAlabama.

The first picket took place in June, during the last week of school before the summer break. It resumed on 3 September, at the beginning of the new school term, and lasted until 23 November. During this time, the protest sparked fierce rioting between Catholics and Protestants in Ardoyne. The loyalists agreed to “suspend” the protest after being promised tighter security for their area.

In January 2002, a scuffle between a Protestant man and a Catholic woman outside the school sparked a large-scale riot in the area. The picket was not resumed and the situation has been mostly quiet since then. The following year, the BBC aired a documentary-drama about the protests.

In the summer of 2001, the RUC received intelligence that UDA members were planning to “exploit community tensions” to kill nationalists, Catholics and/or police officers

On Tuesday 19 June, Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers had to protect children and parents entering the school after they were attacked by loyalist stone throwers. Police described the attack as “vicious”. Following the incident, a blockade of the school developed, with loyalists standing across the road and RUC officers keeping the children and their parents away. This continued each morning for the rest of the week, when the school closed for the summer break.

The following day, the school was forced to close when loyalists blocked the entrance. During the evening, hundreds of loyalists and nationalists clashed with each other and with the police. Shots were also fired at the police. During the riots the police fired a number of the new ‘L21 A1′ plastic baton rounds for the first time.[5]

The morning blockade continued on Thursday 21 June. About 60 of the school’s 230 pupils entered the school through the grounds of another school. Senior Sinn Féin member Gerry Kellysaid: “It’s like something out of Alabamain the 1960s”. Three Protestant families left their homes in Ardoyne Avenue, saying they were afraid of a nationalist attack. During the evening and night there were serious disturbances in the area around the school. Loyalists fired ten shots, and threw six blast bombs and 46 petrol bombs at police lines.Two Catholic homes were attacked with pipe bombs, and a child was thrown against a wall by one of the blasts.

On Friday 22 June, a number of schoolchildren again had to enter the school through the grounds of another school. This was the last day of school before the summer break.

Talks between the protesters and the schoolchildrens’ parents took place over the summer, but no agreement was reached. On 20 August, a ‘paint bomb’ was thrown at the home of a Protestant man in Hesketh Park, smashing a window and causing paint damage to furniture. The man had taken part in the loyalist protest

The protest resumed on Monday 3 September, the first day of the Autumn school term. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (over the summer the RUC had undergone a name change), supported by the British Army, were by then better prepared and managed to force a path through the protesters. Loyalists jeered and shouted sectarian abuse as the children, some as young as four, were escorted into the school by their parents and the police. Stones and bottles were thrown at the children and their parents; one woman was injured. A mother of one of the schoolgirls said: “It was absolutely terrifying. They were shouting ‘dirty tramps’, ‘your kids are animals’, ‘Fenianscum’, ‘you Fenian bastards’. And all we were trying to do was get our kids to school”. Unionist politicians claimed a “heavy-handed” police presence had inflamed the situation, while theProgressive Unionist Party’s Billy Hutchinson alleged that five known IRA men had been allowed to walk with the children through the Protestant area.

Later in the day the Red Hand Defenders(RHD), an illegal loyalist paramilitary group, warned parents and children to stay away from the Ardoyne Road. A threat was also issued against police officers. During the evening there was violence near the school as youths from both sides attacked each other and the security forces. Three Catholic-owned homes on Newington Avenue were badly damaged in a loyalist pipe bombattack. The blast caused an oil tank to catch fire and the flames spread to three houses, one of which was completely destroyed. Another pipe bomb exploded in the garden of a house in the White City area. There was also violence on North Queen Street and Limestone Road

Wednesday 5 September: As the parents and their children passed Glenbryn Parade, loyalists threw a blast bomb towards them. The device exploded, injuring two police officers and a police dog. Panic ensued. Children began screaming and “weeping uncontrollably” and one mother suffered a panic attack.[10] All were taken to hospital. The Red Hand Defenders (RHD) said it was responsible for the attack. Afterward, Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) politician Billy Hutchinson said he was “ashamed to be a loyalist today after seeing these people attack young Catholic girls”. However, he says he continued to stand with the protesters each morning to show leadership.

Wednesday 26 September: Protesters threw fireworks at children and parents returning from the school during the afternoon Week fiveMonday 1 October: Protesters continued their noisy protest as children and parents entered and left the school. Some protesters threw urine-filled balloons at the children and parents. Cups of cold tea and water were also thrown by protesters

Wednesday 10 October: Many of the protesters had begun to hide their identity and some were wearing masks of characters from horror movies. Local doctor Michael Tan said that some of the schoolchildren’s families were near “breaking point” and parents and children were in need of professional psychological care. Bryce Dickson, head of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, visited the scene of the protest. He spoke to some of the protesters but was criticised by some of the parents of the children for not walking the route with them as Quentin Davies had done

On Wednesday 9 January 2002, there were confrontations outside the school during the early afternoon. Disturbances and rioting quickly spread throughout Ardoyne during the evening and into the night. Catholic parents and Protestant residents each claimed that the other side had started the trouble. Catholic parents said that they had faced increased verbal abuse since Monday during their walks to and from school and that they were attacked while leaving the school on Wednesday afternoon. A Catholic mother claimed she was punched in the face as she walked home from the school with her child. Police officers said they arrived at a confrontation between a Protestant woman and a Catholic woman near the school. The police moved to make an arrest but the person was protected by other residents. Police officers said they had to draw their weapons. There was a report that loyalists had driven a car at the school gates in an attempt to break in. Some schoolchildren had to be taken home through the grounds of another school while a bus carrying other children was attacked on its way down Ardoyne Road. Protestant residents claimed the trouble started when Catholics removed a wreath from a lamp-post.

Up to 500 loyalists and nationalists were involved in the disturbances on the Ardoyne Road, Crumlin Road and Brompton Park areas. About 130 petrol bombs, acid bombs and fireworks were thrown. Four Catholic youths were hospitalised after being hit by shotgun pellets at Hesketh Park; loyalists petrol-bombed and destroyed a police vehicle; Catholic homes were attacked on the Upper Crumlin Road; a Catholic woman was knocked-down by a car on Twaddell Avenue; a Catholic man was struck by a police vehicle, and a 13-year-old Protestant schoolboy was injured when a bus was attacked. The police fired eight plastic bullets and arrested three people. As the trouble worsened, 200 police officers, backed by 200 soldiers, were deployed. At least 14 police officers were injured.

The following day, the Holy Cross school was forced to close for the day. Some other schools in the area closed early due to fears about the safety of schoolchildren. In the morning, six loyalists, one with a gun, rampaged through the grounds of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic girls’ secondary school, smashing 18 cars with crowbars. Parents rushed to collect their hysterical daughters. In the afternoon, Protestant pupils from Boys’ Model Secondary School were ferried home in police armoured Land Rovers past nationalist crowds on Crumlin Road. Catholic parents and Protestant residents held separate meetings to discuss the situation.[13]

On Friday 11 January, the Red Hand Defenders issued a death threat against all Catholic teachers and all other staff working at Catholic schools in north Belfast. That weekend, two Catholic schools were set on fire and teachers’ cars were attacked. On Monday, more than 750 armed police officers and soldiers were sent to guard Catholic schools in north Belfast while armoured vehicles lined Ardoyne Road. There was no protest outside the school and there was no serious violence, although there were a few minor scuffles. TheNorthern Ireland Office announced that permanent CCTV cameras would be installed on the Ardoyne Road. A temporary system was to be put in place while waiting for the permanent installation

These are just a few of the key points. Sadly there are many many more.

With many thanks to: The Simple Truth for the origional posting.

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