The Guardian July 19, 2000


Northern Ireland:
Loyalist violence returns

Ugly scenes of thuggery have returned to Northern Ireland as the 
traditional season of loyalist parades and marches across the region gets 
under way, revealing just how out of step loyalist bigotry now is.

Condemned by many within the Unionist community itself, the Protestant 
Orange Order marches are a form of loyalist provocation, traditionally 
intended to cow and intimidate the Catholic, nationalist minority.

The British government-appointed Parades Commission, in a statement by its 
chairperson Tony Holland, refused for the third year in a row, to grant the 
Orange Order access to the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown.

He said he "cannot envisage circumstances in which any subsequent Orange 
Order parade could take place along the Garvaghy Road except on the basis 
of a local agreement".

Sinn Fein Assembly member for Upper Bann, Dara O'Hagan, said the Orange 
Order must adhere to the Parades decision, end the general incitement to 
lawlessness and negotiate with the Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition.

But in the most recent parade incidents, members of loyalist paramilitary 
groups the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) and Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) 
hurled petrol bombs, bricks, bottles, stones and firecrackers at the Royal 
Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

In the course of the rampage an armoured vehicle was set alight.

Nevertheless, nationalists claim that loyalists and RUC continue to collude 
in many of these circumstances, despite the appearance of confrontation.

And while the IRA has signalled the permanence of its ceasefire by burying 
its weapons, balaclava-clad LVF gunmen on the Protestant Corcrain openly 
read out a statement vowing to avenge the 1997 killing of LVF leader Billy 
Wright by republican breakaway group INLA. Pistols raised, volleys were 
then let off.

And Drumcree Orange leader Harold Gracey virtually incited their forces to 
rise up and "get off their bellies" in their thousands all over the north 
of Ireland, creating a general atmosphere of renewed tension. But the 
overwhelming majority of the people of Northern Ireland want an end to 
confrontation and violence.

Despite the provocations by loyalist bigots, the people want the Good 
Friday Agreement to be given a chance.

Back to index page