It is widely known in Antrim Town
that unionist paramilitaries, "pro agreement
and on ceasefire" gunned down 19 year-old Ciaran
Cummings on July 4th 2001. The Red Hand Defenders
claimed they were responsibility for the slaying.
Which they say was retaliation against nationalists
voters who elected two Sinn Fein councillors to the
Antrim Borough Council three weeks previous.
first minister of the Assembly and UUP leader David
Trimble blamed Irish Republicans for the murder saying
it was drugs related. Trimble retracted this statement
a day later. The Cummings' family are still harassed
and taunted by local unionist paramilitaries. The
Cummings' home and car has been vandalized; the family
memorials are desecrated, burned and destroyed. No
one has been prosecuted for the murder.
Town for many Nationalists is an unacknowledged story
of loyalist violence, hatred, intimidation and fear.
Many privately admit such fear but few will go on
public record because reprisals from Loyalists come
quickly and local politicians, clergy, police, teachers,
journalists and some peace campaigners stay mum.
Church records in February 2003 reveal that 1400 Catholics
left Antrim Town since the signing of the Good Friday
Agreement in 1998. Further published reports from
the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) document
at least 90 Catholic families have been forced out
of their homes since May 2002. Targeted families,
include Catholic members of the British forces, and
mixed religious marriages.
date only Sinn Fein highlight what appears to be an
ongoing unionist paramilitary inspired and orchestrated
pogrom against Catholics. Most other politicians remain
silent about the mass exodus of citizens or comment
weakly, condemning unionist perpetrators as mindless
or describing Catholic intimidation as isolated. But
for Catholics in Antrim Town the loyalist intimidation
appears precise and well thought out.
September 2002, the PSNI gave the local press a distorted
and incredible account of the situation affecting
Catholics in the area. Despite the NIHE publication
of precise exodus figures in the local press and a
fullest breakdown of Antrim estates affected. The
Chief Operations Manager of the Antrim PSNI, Nick
Purce told the Belfast Newsletter that the predominantly
nationalist Rathenraw estate was one of the highest
percentage areas of intimidation, when Rathenraw is
attributed with less than 1% of the mass Antrim exodus
by the NIHE.
what the police account had so glibly avoided is the
fact the only 1 Rathenraw family had fled Antrim Town
after countless death threats from unionist paramilitaries.
The greater insult to Irish nationalists living in
Antrim Town is the desperate perpetuation of a unionist
myth that the family fled not from unionist paramilitary
intimidation but because of tit-for-tat violence.
Malachy's Catholic High School in Antrim Town has
many parallels with Holy Cross Girls School in Ardoyne.
In April 2001 unionist paramilitaries first showed
up at St. Malachy's High School gates. Schoolchildren
have since faced up to 150 unionist "protestors"
accompanied by their Pitbull terriers, Dobermans,
Alsatian dogs and the Antrim Town Progressive Unionist
Party representative, Ken Wilkinson.
Catholic School buses were attacked; children were
assaulted and taunted. School authorities deny there
is a problem at the school. Unionists ascribe the
problem to one man's presence, Paddy Murray, a former
IRA Prisoner and until very recently the Chairman
of Antrim Sinn Fein. Murray's presence was given as
a reason for the protest, but is that the case? He
is despised by loyalist paramilitaries in the area
and graffiti warns Murray to "watch his back"
and to "remember Ciaran Cummings ha ha".
March 2002, Paddy agreed to stay away from the Catholic
school even though his son was a pupil. More than
2 years later the Loyalist gangs still return to the
school and Catholic children continue to be intimidated
Malachy's parents held two public meeting concerning
the safety and welfare of all Antrim school children.
Political, religious, community leaders, educators
and the board of governors among others were invited.
But only Sinn Fein and Mr. Sean Quinn, headmaster
of St Malachy's attended the meetings.
too familiarly, the "loyalist protest" occurs
under the eye of a watchful but idle police force.
The PSNI claim they are upholding unionists' rights
to protest and unionist paramilitary flags and emblems
and red white and blue lampposts containing the initials
of the Ulster Volunteer Force now surround St Malachy's
there is a belief in his community that Murray is
not only a scapegoat at the school but that he also
serves as a sacrificial lamb for those politicians
who are afraid to face up to the loyalist gangs. Many
nationalists also believe that the PSNI are unwilling
to act against the loyalist gangs. The so-called new
police service claims to utilize "a mirror policing
policy" which may on face value seem fair but
it is a policy that creates more problems than it
solves. The mirror policing policy is akin to good
cop - bad cop on a community scale. One day the cops
treat nationalists unfairly and the next time out
it is the Unionists turn. This policy will be elaborated
in the later paragraphs of this article.
July 2003 trees surrounding Murray's home on the Rathenraw
estate were cut to the ground. The trees serve as
a natural boundary and for the beleaguered Rathenraw
residents as a "peace" wall separating and
protecting them from the Stiles Estate, the source
of many unionist paramilitary attacks. Many trees
were felled before the residents' group could halt
the NIHE action.
NIHE claimed they were engaged in routine pruning.
But, International observers, including IAUC member,
Carol Russell, witnessed and photographed the action.
The tree cutting and felling left nationalists feeling
more vulnerable than ever to attack. And within a
week after the NIHE action, Paddy Murray, who has
three children including 2 infants, and Aine Gribbon,
a mother of eight who recently stood in the council
elections as a Sinn Fein candidate, were both visited
by the PSNI and told they are on a UDA death list.
Murray's name is at the top.
PSNI admitted to the press they had asked the NIHE
to cut down the trees for "security" reasons.
The NIHE denied colluding with the PSNI in the same
article. NIHE officials and PSNI members later informed
the Rathenraw residents that trees on the Stiles Estate
will also be cut down. This statutory approach fully
adheres and illustrates the logic of "mirror
policing". Which ought to be understood, as meaning
Catholics shouldn't feel too aggrieved because Protestants
living across the road will now feel just as vulnerable
as they do and this is fair and balanced policing.
Town is regarded as a garrison town but the psyche
of the most dominant gaze resembles a genteel American
deep south outback more than any British village.
Much of the town is covered in a plethora of unionist
paramilitary flags and other unionist emblems and
loyalist young militant gangs armed with hatchets
or meat cleavers roam the town attacking catholic
schoolchildren. Sinn Fein European election posters
and the Irish national flag Irish are regarded as
antagonistic and therefore removed by the police.
Nationalists claim the same SF posters and Irish flag
were later seen placed on 11th night loyalist bonfires
in the town.
article is far from definitive, it is simply a brief
synopsis on an Antrim taboo and backdrop that nationalists
confront each day. Many unionist spokesmen have already
said there was never any sectarian trouble in Antrim
until Murray arrived. Unfortunately some prominent
nationalists are quick to acquiesce concerning the
Republican POW presence. There are others also who
would rather believe that there is no sectarian problem
in the town at all, just a Paddy Murray problem. On
June 28th 2004 at about 4am a bomb exploded at Murray's
family home in Rathenraw which is the most recent
attack, no political representatives have visited
or contacted him or his family, an SDLP representative
has voiced some public concern and a loyalist spokesman
has publicly denied any loyalist paramilitary involvement
in the bomb attack but the Loyalist spokesman described
the IRA POW as "a disruptive presence".
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