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