Displaced loyalists partly to blame for riots

Text messaging - the favourite past time of teenage mobile phone owners has entered the world of sectarian rioting in north Belfast…

Text messaging - the favourite past time of teenage mobile phone owners has entered the world of sectarian rioting in north Belfast. According to local people the teenage rioters in Ardoyne alert each other to riots at flashpoints by texting each other.

Across the lines, the Protestant rioters employ different means to achieve the same ends. The loyalists use aerosol foghorns.

The Catholic residents of Newington Street heard these "sirens" going off in the Protestant streets behind them at around 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Within 30 minutes a large mob had gathered between Newington Street and the Protestant Halliday's Road. A hail of bricks, bottles and primitive pipe bombs then began to rain over, smashing into Catholic houses, breaking almost every unprotected window.


Several of the residents yesterday said the attack went on for about four hours. One woman said she and her neighbour approached a police Land Rover parked outside their house but the police said they had orders not to leave their vehicles. In small numbers the police are helpless against large mobs of organised rioters. The police are also under instructions not to use plastic baton rounds unless under the direction of a very senior officer. Fourteen police were injured during the weekend rioting in north Belfast.

In the rubble-filled rear yards the Newington Street residents found crude pipe bombs. One resident found one underneath his car.

The Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) arrived shortly after 10 a.m. yesterday and began unloading sandbags as they set about clearing the bombs.

According to loyalist sources the latest trouble between Halliday's Road and Newington Street began to intensify this year with the arrival of a large number of loyalists from the Shankill Road as a result of the bloody loyalist feud there last winter. Some 14 loyalists were shot dead in the feud and an estimated 600 families associated with both the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Ulster Defence Association (UDA) had to leave homes.

The displacement of families associated with the UDA is seen as being a major contributory factor in the rise of sectarian violence.

The UDA is nakedly sectarian in its attacks. It is well organised and large. At a UDA rally along the Shankill in August an estimated 5,000 men took part.

According to north Belfast sources, many of the lower Shankill UDA also moved into the Glenbryn estate opposite the gates of Holy Cross Church. They began taking part in protests last June against the march up the Ardoyne Road each day by Catholic school children and their parents from the neighbouring Catholic area.

According to local sources three members of the UDA's junior wing were responsible for the pipe bomb attack on the parents and children two weeks ago that sent the children and their mothers scattering in terror into the school.

Local loyalist sources said the 19-year-old youth who threw the pipe bomb had been put under pressure to carry out the attack. It is said he is heavily in debt to the UDA, allegedly owing £800 for drugs. He was told to carry out the attack or face very serious injury for not paying the money.

Loyalist sources also said that the pipe bomb attack was not sanctioned by the local UDA leadership in the Glenbryn area but by the new UDA people arriving from the lower Shankill.

The figures most centrally involved in fomenting the violence on the loyalist side are described as close associates of the lower Shankill UDA leader, Johnny Adair. Adair was returned to prison last year because of his role in sparking the feud between the UDA and UVF.

Two of Adair's lieutenants were present at the protests last week in Glenbryn. The UDA has also been behind the spate of pipe bomb attacks against Catholic homes and businesses in the past year.

Adair remains in Maghaberry Prison where he is serving out the rest of a 14-year term imposed for directing a terrorist organisation.

One other UDA figure has also been returned to prison with him because of suspected re-involvement in terrorism.

Part of the UDA's reason for its return to organised violence is that it was the only terrorist group to come under renewed police investigation over the inquiry into the murder of Catholic solicitor, Pat Finucane. Mr Finucane was shot dead by the UDA at his north Belfast home in February 1989. The investigation has led to the arrest of several UDA members. The UDA points out that this has been taking place while other terrorist groups largely enjoy immunity from prosecutions for offences prior to the signing of the Belfast Agreement in February 1998.

The UDA is also angered by what it sees as Sinn FΘin and IRA manipulation of the children's walk to school for anti-Protestant propaganda.

There has been a long tradition of antipathy between the two communities in working class north Belfast. Several of the figures on both sides of the Ardoyne confrontation have served long prison terms for sectarian murders.

The chairman of the Catholic parents' committee, Mr Brendan Mailey, was convicted of murdering a 22-year-old Protestant policeman, Raymond Carroll, in the nearby Oldpark area. Mr Mailey, a Sinn FΘin representative, was reported in the Belfast nationalist newspaper, the Irish News, yesterday as saying it is totally regrettable that anyone lost a life in the Troubles.

Yesterday the Sinn FΘin figure and former IRA prisoner, Brendan McFarlane was prominent in the group of parents although he did not accompany them up past the Protestant area.

Mr McFarlane is still before the courts in the Republic in relation to his arrest two years ago for alleged involvement in the kidnap of the supermarket executive, Mr Don Tidey in 1983. Garda∅ and the Defence Forces freed Mr Tidey but during the operation at Derrada Wood in Co Leitrim the IRA shot dead a probation garda Garry Sheehan (23) and Private Patrick Kelly (35).

Mr McFarlane had escaped from the Maze earlier that year along with 18 other IRA prisoners. He was, at the time, serving a 25-year sentence for the murders of five Protestant civilians in an IRA bomb attack on a Shankill Road public house, the Bayardo Bar in September 1975.

On the loyalist side, the local Progressive Unionist MLA, Mr Billy Hutchinson, served life imprisonment for the murders of two Catholic workmen who were shot dead while walking near the Falls Road in the mid-1970s.

Another former IRA prisoner who has been visible in the protests served a life sentence for the murder of a 17-year-old Protestant girl, Heather Thompson at a filling station in the Oldpark area in November 1974. The man, now locally prominent in Sinn FΘin, was also convicted of murdering the filling station manager, John McClean, also a Protestant.

While the largest number of pipe bomb attacks has stemmed from the UDA in north Belfast, republicans have also been involved in throwing bombs into houses in small Protestant estates around Ardoyne.

The intervention of the new Parish Priest of Holy Cross, Fr Adain Troy and the Rev Norman Hamilton, Minister of the Ballysillan Presbyterian Church, is said by local people to have helped greatly in stabilising the situation surrounding the protest last week.

However, despite the temporary calming of the protest last week after the World Trade Centre and Pentagon attacks and the continued conciliation efforts, feelings in north Belfast are beginning to run high again. The tension of the weekend was such that Holy Cross decided to allow the children off for a "Fun Day".