Infinity: The Views of a Dreamer
‘Post-Peace: Sectarian Violence in Northern Ireland’
Written by Aaron Peterson | 4/28/2014
Ardoyne is largely working class Nationalist/Catholic district in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It has been 16 years since the signing and implementation of the ‘Good Friday Agreement’, but the people of Ardoyne, have still been under the same siege that has existed for the Nationalist community since the first burning out of houses in 1969 in the Bogside. The 12th of July, in which the Orange Order and their interconnected groups celebrate the victory of Protestant William of Orange over Catholic James II, at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. On a nearly yearly basis the people of Ardoyne, have been subject to the parading of the Orange Order and orchestrated riots of the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Forth) each 12th of July… The people of Ardoyne are serially harassed through these tactics of sectarianism, as marching bands with anti-Nationalist sentiment march past the interface area. The people of Ardoyne through community organizations have voiced their public opinion as to have these passing of Loyalist bands stopped. However, this has largely amounted to nothing, with the exception of continued disturbance every 12th of July. In which, the community of Ardoyne suffers harassment by sectarian songs which are primarily anti-Catholic in nature and are drawn into street fighting with the PSNI. Largely due to the protection the PSNI offers the Orange Order and other Loyalist bands in their marching past the community of Ardoyne. In the street fighting and in the aftermath of the street fighting, the people of Ardoyne have been marginalized. Marginalized to suffer a repeat of the same attacks on their homes and community by Loyalists at a yearly rate.
[The community of Ardoyne protests against the marching of sectarian bands]
The same has been an existent reality for the community of the Short Strand, an area in Belfast, which is mainly a Nationalist/Catholic enclave which is primarily surrounded by the neighboring Protestant Unionist community of East Belfast. On June 21st of 2011, the Short Strand, perhaps witnessed the largest amount of violence directed towards it since the so-called ending of The Troubles in 1998. Around one hundred masked men wearing camouflage gear and surgical gloves descended on the Shortstrand at the behest of the East Belfast UVF, attacking Catholic homes and the local St. Matthews Church with bricks and paint bombs. Feeling the hand they had been dealt by the sectarian East Belfast UVF, the residents of the Short Strand responded to the siege upon their homes. Gunshots on both sides were exchanged. The following evening of the 22nd, hundreds of young people fought both each other and the police. The aftermath was that, three people, including a 16-year-old youth and a press photographer, were shot. Another ended up in a hospital with a fractured skull. While there were numerous minor injuries. Gunshots, blast bombs, petrol bombs, fireworks and rocks were exchanged between the rioters and the armored police. The fighting between the two communities, drove sectarian tensions through the roof towards the annual serial harassment of much like Ardoyne, each 12th of July, the Short Strand too. In which Orange Order bands and those linked to them pass by the Short Strand and Ardoyne in harassment of the local communities.
[Loyalist rioter throws a petrol bomb at the short strand]
Earlier this year of 2014, in January, the Ardoyne Youth Club football team endured sectarian abuse throughout the game, in which they were playing a rival majority Protestant football team. Upon successfully winning the match, the team members found themselves surrounded by a sectarian mob. Upon receiving a safe escort by the referee, it was only moments afterward that the Loyalists engaging in the abuse and intimidation towards the AYC, had reached for their mobile phones calling their brethren to the scene. Only moments after they left the Hammer Youth Club, a group of Loyalist paramilitaries had arrived and went into the centre.
[Ardoyne Youth Club, Belfast]
It was on the night of April the 25th 2014, although when the latest in a series of sectarian attacks was committed. The news rings out as follows “Ardoyne children savagely beaten by a Loyalist mob in Hammer Youth Club.” Between six and ten children from Ardoyne were attending a football match in the Hammer Youth Club on the Shankill Road. When the game had reached it’s conclusion, the security of the youth club locked the gates behind the children from Ardoyne. When a youth from Ardoyne asked as to why the gate was locked behind them and why they were unable to leave they were given the response from a security man that he had been “told to lock them in.” What followed nearly moments after was a group of upwards of thirty full grown men with the inclusion of the security guard who had entered the pitch and began attacking the children. Beating the children severely for a prolonged period which had left them bloody and bruised. Some of the children had to be brought to the hospital following the intense beating that they had suffered; many suffering from broken bones and other major injuries.
This was the fourth sectarian attack on the Ardoyne Youth Club in the Hammer Youth Center in the past five months. Not to mention, a number of sectarian attacks perpetuated by the same crowd in the Ballysillian Leisure Centre. The people of Ardoyne have had to ask themselves, the very hard question yet again, why is the safety of Ardoyne’s youth being put in danger by the people who run the youth club?
Those responsible for running the Ardoyne Youth Club have received large amounts of funding to keep the image of cross community projects between the Loyalist Shankill and the Nationalist Ardoyne alive. While at the same time failing to protect the team and at continually putting them in situations of great peril. Community members had warned of these type of potential serious incidents to the Ardoyne Youth Club and were ignored by the management. As such a large portion of the blame lies at the hands of the management of the youth club, both for the past incidents and injuries. An explanation is required by the community as to why their children’s safety has been put in grave danger. The resounding answer though seems to echo in the wind, that along with the yearly serial harassment of Ardoyne and the Short Strand, the sectarian attacks against the youth of the Ardoyne Youth Club are just a continuation of violence in Northern Ireland, which so many have claimed has ended.
With cross-community projects like the Ardoyne Youth Club serving as a mere technique to hide the fact of what is actually on-going in the National/Republican areas, as well as in the Loyalist areas of Northern Ireland. In an attempt to hide the actual facts on the ground and the continuation of sectarian violence. Attempts to save face and to ensure that the 1998 ‘peace process’ appears to be well working within this with both communities jollily marching onward towards a shared future. When the fact remains, the sectarian attacks have never been properly dealt with and they continue to be on-going towards mainly working class Irish people. This rings out the same question that has been asked numerous times, has the “Good Friday Agreement”, truly served the interests of the Nationalist/Republican community in the Six Counties of Ireland?
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