Thursday, 14 July 2011


Predictably the annual Orange Order festival in North Belfast's Ardoyne ended with more violence from young people who opposed an unwelcome parade through their community. 

In spite of countless meetings, consultations, media statements and leaflet drops around the issue of contentious marches by the Anti-Catholic, Nationalist and Republican Orange Institution. The Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) filed for a residents march to take place on July 12th, 2011. A few days later, the Parades Commission issued it's negative ruling on GARC's application to hold a peaceful, calm and dignified march. As expected, the Commission under advice of the rebranded RUC refused local residents access to the Crumlin Road. Even though, the same Commissioners permitted the Orange Order, a number of Loyalist Bands and supporters to parade on the same stretch of the road twice in one day.

Around 8am that morning, GARC Activists attended a CARA organised protest planned to take place at the same time as the above marchers walked the Crumlin Road. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of CARA's protest were NOT Greater Ardoyne residents at all, but members of Provisional Sinn Fein members. Some of who were very senior members of that Political Party! After opposing the unwelcome march, GARC and their supporters made their way along the footpath toward Brompton Park. However, were prevented by so doing by a large detachment of paramiltary 'Police' who physically blocked their path.

Fast forward to 6.30pm in the evening, where some 500 local residents assembled on the Berwick Road to partake in a GARC march through the area to assert the rights of local people! The residents were joined by a small number of Political Activists from various Republican Groups who came along to express their solidarity. Just prior to leaving on their planned route, scores of riot-cladd RUC/PSNI men, ten armoured Land Rovers and a Water Cannon stormed into the top of Estorial Park. Where they immeidately attacked number of local people waiting on the GARC demonstration. This provaction was witnessed by Fr. Gary Donegan and Alban McGuinness of the SDLP, who both later condemned the behavoiur of the Political Police. The youth responded with a few stones and bottles and the top of Estorial was completely sealed off with access refused to everyone!

As Estorial Park was GARC's intended route, the Collective had no option but march down Strathroy Park, along Etna Drive and up Brompton Park. When we reached the top of Brompton, we were faced by dozens of heavily-armed Cops, Land Rovers and another Water Cannon. Minutes later, Dee Fennell addressed those assembled, thanking them for remaining calm despite the aggressive manner of the RUC/PSNI. He outlined the reason GARC had applied for such a march and why we had been refused access to the Crumlin Road - 'We are still second-class citizens in our own Country'! After reading the statement, Dee appealed on behalf of GARC that local youths NOT to riot because that would only detract away from the core issue of unwelcome parades!

Those youth did not listen and within minutes of GARC and their supporters dispersing began attacking the RUC/PSNI with whatever they could throw at them! In the ensuing trouble, GARC Activists remonstrated with the rioters but to no avail. We then asked our supporters to please leave the area in a peaceful manner. Throughout the Twelfth night, some 16 members of the RUC/PSNI were injured, over 60 plastic bullets were fired and 9 arrests took place in Ardoyne including a 12 year-old boy. Everyone is well aware that GARC delivered over 6,000 leaflets to homes in the Greater Ardoyne community in the days before. The Collective also issued numerous media statements, calling upon the youth not to become involved in violence.

Responsibility for the riot and violence in Ardoyne lies fairly and squarely with the Orange Order, UVF and UDA for their insistance to parade where they are UNWELCOME. It also is at the door of the Parades Commission who permit/allow these sectarian marches take place and with the unreformed RUC who not only provoke an already tense situation but also force our community to endure bigots and their triumpalism!

GARC again challenge the North and West Belfast Cultural & Parades Forum to talks to explore the possibility of a resolution? GARC have consistentlyexpressed that your community have legitimate rights, we ask that the rights of local residents are equally respected! Would North Belfast Republican be allowed to march where they are NOT welcome? Would the Klu Klux Klan be allowed to parade through a Black area? Would Neo-Nazis be permitted to march through a Jewish community? The 'security operation' to faciliate these parades are very expensive and the taxpayer is always burdened to foot the bill. I wonder how many parades the Loyal Orders would insist upon. If they had to pay the bill? Would the funds used to facilitate these unwanted parades NOT be BETTER spent on better facilities for working-class communities that have been neglected by the Six County State for generations. So our children can a brighter future and more opportunities?

Written by GARC Activist, Martin Og Meehan
and published on his Ardoyne Republican Blog

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