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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Ireland: Nationalists
Resist Loyalist Intimidation

Paul Mallon • FRFI 186 August/September 2005

The loyalist marching season in the Six Counties led to a dramatic increase in sectarian attacks against nationalists. The most serious of these incidents occurred in North Belfast where nationalists came under attack from both the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and loyalist gangs following a series of Orange parades in the nationalist Ardoyne area of the city. Sinn Fein responded, as it has in recent years, by attempting to police its own community. This year however an increased number of nationalists, primarily youth, rejected the Sinn Fein leadership's line and fought pitched battles with both the security forces and loyalist mobs to defend their areas.

Once again 12 July, the height of the loyalist marching season, became the focal point of conflict following the decision to force an Orange march through the Ardoyne area. Last year this same parade caused tensions to explode into protests, which resulted in open confrontation between nationalist youth and the British army (see FRFI 180). Sinn Fein intervened and saved British soldiers from nationalist youths. This year in Ardoyne escalated in a similar way with Sinn Fein again policing its own community. Nationalist youth responded throwing petrol bombs, blast bombs, bricks and bottles at the military. Around 80 PSNI officers were injured, they responded by firing plastic bullets at the nationalist protesters in the first use of baton rounds in almost three years. Several nationalists were injured by these lethal weapons, which have previously killed 17 people, the majority children, in the Six Counties. The next day Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly, who spent the day before acting as a policeman, complained of being 'disempowered' by the British military as they began baton charges and used water cannon to disperse the crowds. Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams played a similar role and was soaked by police water cannon for his efforts. Adams spent much of the day trying to call the British and Irish governments to get them to intervene. Many nationalists viewed Adam's posturing as a political stunt.

On the same day in the nationalist town of Dunloy, County Antrim, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness was deployed to defuse the anger of nationalists engaged in a tense stand off with the police and army. Nationalist residents objected to the presence of racist Orange marchers but were urged by McGuinness to be 'cool, calm and collected'. Following talks between McGuinness and the PSNI the Orange convoy was allowed through. Adams' and McGuinness' interventions are their first visible return to the streets since the January killing of Robert McCartney in Belfast by Republicans.

The Orange 'Tour of the North' parade on 17 June also descended into violence as the PSNI used dozens of Land Rovers to hem in the local nationalist community along the Crumlin Road, Belfast to facilitate the Orange marchers. Following the march the presence of known members of loyalist death squads led to nationalists throwing missiles from behind police lines. A water cannon was used to try and disperse the nationalist community from their streets. Sinn Fein continued its policing role, attempting to restore order alongside the PSNI. These efforts demonstrate Sinn Fein's under-estimation and misunderstanding of the deep-rooted anger felt by the nationalist community at their rights being trampled on by loyalist bigots.

Following these disturbances in North Belfast, well-known republican ex-prisoner Seán Kelly had his licence revoked by British Secretary of State Peter Hain. The freedom of political prisoners released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement is entirely conditional. Kelly had been accused by Unionists of being involved in violence in Ardoyne prior to his re-arrest. With no evidence to support this Hain bowed to Unionist pressure. Sinn Fein responded, calling on the British government to 'play fair'.

The latest British government Labour Force Survey confirms the true nature of the Six Counties as a sectarian state. Despite the introduction of successive fair employment laws, Catholics remain twice as likely to be unemployed as their Protestant counterparts. Catholic women are over three and a half times more likely to be unemployed than Protestant women. Nationalist areas (West and North Belfast, Derry Foyle and West Tyrone) suffer disproportionately high social deprivation. Unionist areas (North Down, Strangford, Lagan Valley and South Antrim) have least deprivation.

On 12 July nationalists unfurled a banner saying 'Make sectarianism history'. That sectarianism is deeply rooted in the power structure of the six counties controlled by British imperialism. FRFI supports the nationalist people's right to protest and defend themselves from loyalist attacks. We call for the removal of the 15,000 British troops stationed in Ireland.


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! is the bimonthly newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Group in Britain:
















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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

15 September 2005

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Ireland: Nationalists Resist Loyalist Intimidation
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Facing the Truth About the North
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Mowlam and the Status Quo
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