'On the Edge' edited by Neil Jarman (1996)
[Key_Events] Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]
I can’t understand how the tabloids, the papers, Daily Mirror especially, got away with the lies that were planted (Protestant, Torrens).
The various disturbances in North Belfast received extensive coverage on the television and radio and in the newspapers. Although the reporting of events was not something that we specifically enquired into, there were frequent mentions of the media treatment of the trouble. Members of both communities were in broad agreement in their attitude towards the media: news coverage was often criticised and reports were felt to he unbalanced. In particular the way that events in Torrens escalated over the Monday night and Tuesday 8/9 July period was partly attributed, by some who spoke to the Inquiry, to an inaccurate and incomplete reporting of the events as they unfolded.
In fact one of the original spurs to the holding of the Inquiry was a feeling from within some sections of the Protestant community that they bad been unfairly demonised and blamed for the troubles. In particular there was a criticism of the representation of them as sectarian bigots eager to intimidate Catholic neighbours from their houses.
We’re quite willing to accept there was a window broken in Torrens but I could take you round and show you windows that have broken by Roman Catholics roaming these districts and not a word mentioned about it in the press and nobody ever thinks of going to the press about it (Protestant, Torrens).
The unwillingness of the media to follow up their early reporting with mote complex and varied accounts of what had happened, added fuel to the conviction on the part of some, Protestants that they had been unfairly vilified.
The reaction from the nationalist community often contrasted the divergence of the news reporting with their own experience. They felt that they were unfairly depicted because the media tended to favour the police interpretation of events rather than theirs.
Four main issues were raised in the submissions:
Although we will address each complaint separately in many ways all these issues are interconnected and in some submissions a number of the complaints were made with regard to a single event. Many of the examples that we quote are from the Protestant community in Torrens, who represent only a small proportion of the population of North Belfast. We do this because they were the most angry about the way the media reported the events in their area and because they gave many specific examples about the behaviour that they objected too. In many other areas people were critical of the media, but mentioned the role they had played in passing, and in a more dismissive manner, as if they did not really expect anything else.
1. Negative Reporting
There was a general complaint that in those mixed areas where Catholic families were moving out, the media did not want to talk to local Protestants. Instead it was claimed that they only wanted the opinion of the local Catholics. It was felt that the press were not interested in reporting both sides of the story, only in confirming their own expectations. Primary among those expectations was that there was clearly a good community and a bad community, a victim and victimiser, and that the trouble must be caused by the Protestant residents who were ganging up on isolated Catholic families.
I feel that we were badly very badly put in the wrong on TV coverage and papers because there was only the one girl that opened her mouth in the street that caused everything that happened in the Drive. There was no one getting put out of the Drive because it is a good district (Protestant, Torrens).
When Protestants residents challenged this view it was felt that reporters were unsympathetic to their arguments or unwilling to hear both sides of the story. It was felt that reporters had made their minds up about the rights and wrongs of the issue before they found out what was happening on the ground. One such complaint was made of a number of foreign reporters who arrived in the Torrens area only off the plane’ and were looking to talk to Catholics who were being intimidated but not interested in hearing other views.
The reporters said they were only off the plane. They asked me ‘Is there any Roman Catholics living in this street?’ and I said Hold on there is a Protestant, Roman Catholic Roman Catholic, Roman Catholic and Protestant Protestant, Roman Catholic’, and he went off and said ‘Tell us your name' and he said ‘I’m a Protestant’. The next fellow says 'I’m a Roman Catholic’. He didn’t want to talk to Protestants, he talked to the Catholics. But the Catholics gave the same story, the true story, not ‘the’ story that went out, the story about the window getting broke and these people, these people activating the getting broke and then the Republicans coming in, IRA Republicans they told them this (Protestant, Torrens).
A second generalised complaint, and one that was not confined to the events of last summer, was that while the media would rush to the scene of an attack on Catholic property, they readily ignored similar attacks on Protestant schools or churches.
As soon as you see a Catholic Church attacked - which is wrong and I’m not trying to justify that - its in the paper. Its all over the news - but there is no media coverage of the attacks in the Whitewell or Mountcollyer of the attacks on Protestant properly (Grove area).
Here it was felt that the media held, and fostered, an assumption that only Protestants could carry out sectarian attacks. Although this attitude was confirmed during last summers disturbances it was believed to be a longstanding approach by the press who were, in general, biased against working class Protestants.
A number of submissions complained that members of the media elaborated, over dramatised or simply fabricated stories to suit there own needs. While ‘stage-management’ for photos and television is probably a normal part of media work, in the volatile and distrustful environment it was seen as evidence of bias or that the ‘IRA’ had successfully engineered the entire sequence of events for ‘propaganda’ reasons.
I seen this guy, a photographer and he spoke to me. He knew me but I didn’t know him. He was an English guy. I said ‘What are you doing? You are making them women walk down the path with brown bags. What are you playing at?’ He said 'I’m taking photos for the Mirror’. I said ‘But you are actually creating the photographs here, you are not actually taking photographs of what is happening, you are asking people to walk down’. He said to me 'Well those people are going’. And I said ‘Why are they going?’. And he said to me ‘Well, they have been intimidated out by the UVF’. And I said ‘Where did you hear this?’. He says 'People in Ardoyne told me’. And I said ‘Right, go away’ (Unionist politician).
One of the photographers said to a girl 'Look, don’t be bringing everything out together just run with a pot and then throw it down in the garden and then run out with a black bag and throw it down on the garden’. So it was all a publicity stunt (Protestant, Torrens).
A number of residents claimed that people were asked to pose for photographs and camera shots pretending to leave a burnt-out house. A woman was asked to walk down the drive carrying bags of belonging to suggest that she was a tenant leaving in a rush whereas, it was claimed, that most of the removals were organised and methodical. In another example it was claimed two local children were ‘borrowed’ to pose outside the burnt house, furthermore the children used for the shot were Protestants and not involved in the events.
They had Kate Adie, a war correspondent stuck in the middle of Torrens Drive. Kate Adie didn’t want to talk to any of the community leaders, all she wanted to do was put a child on one side of the door and a child on another side of the door of the house that was burnt out - I was standing watching her - at the house that was burned out by the IRA, a Roman Catholic family burned out by the IRA. I asked her what she was doing with the two children in front of the door and she said ‘I’m doing a story about this house getting burned’. I said ‘But you don ‘t know the story. The two children don’t know the story’. She grabbed two Protestant children and put them outside a Roman Catholic house that was burned by the IRA (Protestant, Torrens).
Residents of Torrens felt that the press manipulated and elaborated the story of the events in their area in such a way that the result was that they were depicted as vicious bigots, while no questions were asked of the behaviour of members of the Catholic community who had come in to move people. They feel that this legacy remains even now.
I don’t know how you will ever get this right, it’s all in the past, but I don’t know even in this inquiry how it’s going to sort out the damage that the newspapers have done. The district has got a bad name. We were just saying the other day if I go somewhere and I have to give my address, when I’m saying Torrens Drive, I feel as if people are thinking ‘oh she is one of the Protestants that put the Catholics out of Torrens Drive’ (Protestant, Torrens).
Another aspect of these complaints was that it was felt that the media over-reacted to what was often little more than a localised disturbance. Reporters rushed in to respond to a crisis which was then blown up to justify their presence. For example another person was also critical of the appearance of BBC reporter Kate Adie in the Torrens area.
They were sending a war correspondent into an area where a bicycle was put through a window.
Having arrived in an area, either after the action was over, or where events did not live up to expectations, reporters were then forced to dramatise or recreate activity to feed the needs of their editors. One man complained that reporters tried to interview him as he was packing and moving his stuff. He claimed that they were not interested in him or his problems, but only in using him as a passive subject for their latest story. The same individual was also concerned about how he had been tracked down by the media, he was contacted by a range of local and international media after he had been forced to leave his house, but he never found out who gave out his address.
We had German television, we had French television, we had Ulster TV, we had Radio One, Radio Ulster they al/found where we were but nobody knows who gave them the names and address. They were all doing interviews for different things. The press made up, more or less, their own story, as they went along. They elaborated on things which actually happened and they didn’t impress on things that were happening after everybody was put out.
There was some press up on the morning that we were getting put out - they were trying to interview you were trying to get stuff out and you were bumping into one another and they were asking awkward questions at the time (Catholic, Torrens).
While investigation is a necessary part of an independent media, it was felt that the press were often insensitive to the events that were unfolding. Many complaints allude to the insensitivity of the reporting which too readily appealed to sensationalism and served to augment tensions rather than help to calm things down. One submission complained that one camera crew used a boom microphone to listen in on a conversation he was having with two local women who were concerned about there personal safety and who he was trying to reassure. This individual also felt that the presence of the camera crews and reporters put pressure on people - something was expected to happen or would be made to happen and this therefore added to the tension of the situation.
If the residents disagreed with, or challenged the version of events that were carried on television, on radio or in the press they felt that they were ignored. When this was coupled with a feeling that reporters often only depicted one side of the story, it meant that not only were they not asked for their viewpoints but misrepresentations could not be challenged.
I am very annoyed at all the coverage this area got, the bad publicity it got and yet there hasn’t been one retraction. I have phoned Daily Mirror I have phoned Downtown Radio, on umpteen occasions and especially after the Catholic guy was charged with setting the house on fire and nobody wanted to know (Protestant, Torrens).
Residents of Wyndham Street, which is adjacent to Torrens, complained that the Belfast Telegraph had carried a story that stated that Protestants were being put out of the area in reprisal for the events in Torrens. This they said was a 'real falsehood' as nothing of the kind happened. The residents say that they contacted the paper and asked them to print a retraction, but the paper refused. Again this type of reporting was felt to be irresponsible and potentially inflammatory.
That same week there was reports in the Belfast Telegraph that people were put out of their houses in Wyndham Street which was a real falsehood. There was nobody in Wyndham Street put out, three or four neighbours went down to make sure they pat a retraction in. But they didn’t want to know. They had got their story, it was printed (Catholic, Wyndham Street).
Similarly a resident of Torrens says that she phoned Downtown Radio to complain about one of their reports which claimed that people were being burnt out of the area. She says that when she told them that she felt under siege, the radio ‘loved my story’, but then they lost interest when she said that she felt threatened by republicans who had come into the area rather than by Protestants. She also complained that the station would not put any change of emphasis on their story to include her point of view.
From 10.30 pm on Monday 8 July Downtown Radio were saying about Torrens Drive being under siege, so I phoned Downtown Radio. They were saying Catholic people were put out - they loved the story until they said to me ‘And who has you under siege?’ and I said ‘I don’t know them personally but they say they are the Republican IRA’. They never changed the statement on the Radio.
There was however one acknowledgement, that the media, or at least a section of them, could and in fact did respond to complaints. This was from a person involved in mediating the dispute on the Limestone Road in September.
Maybe this is one thing which will come out, the press responsibilities in situations like these. When we got the press together we gave off to them, we told them to stop interviewing drunks or we would cut off all connections. I must say the BBC were excellent about this.
This quote indicates that some areas of the media were willing to change their styles of news gathering, but it also indicates the lengths that community activists have to go to get any action taken and also suggests that those less powerful sections of society will have a less positive response to their complaints.
4. Press and Police
One final concern focused on the relationship of the police and the press. While it was felt that the press often ignored the views of local people on the troubles of last summer, it was believed that they were ready to follow the police interpretation of events. This was particularly the case after the Tour of the North parade. One person overheard the police briefing reporters over the injuries officers had suffered and the way the protesters had behaved and felt that
It was a totally different perception of what I had seen and what other people had seen (Cliftonville resident).
Another submission made a similar point about the reporting of the protest at the parade and felt that the papers failed to carry photographs which conveyed the full story of the police actions and the violence that was used to remove protesters.
There was TV cameras and stuff there, and the guy who works in the Irish News, and I think there was one picture came out of it all, and that was just like lifting someone by the arms, you know so calm and relaxed (Newington resident).
Similarly it was felt that the television pictures that were broadcast of the disturbances on the Limestone Road in September were edited in such a way that it focused on the nationalist protesters and largely ignored the over-aggressive behaviour of the police.
But do you know what really annoyed me so much, we seen the cameras, and we seen all these television cameras and thought people are going to know now what’s happening, you know the truth about what’s happening and you see when they came on the news it showed you a wee glimpse of the police running here and a wee glimpse of the Catholics, it never showed you the beatings and how it started (Newington resident).
In neither of these cases was it suggested that the police had anything to do with the way the events were reported, but at the same time it was felt that the press were favouring the police perspective. This belief mirrored the views of the Protestant community over the way in which they were portrayed in contrast to Catholics, in this case republicans and nationalists felt that they were misrepresented, while the police were treated more sympathetically.
Submissions from many areas and from both communities were critical of the reporting of events through the summer of 1996. All sections of the media. newspapers, television and radio, came in for criticism. There was no distinction made between the reporting of the national and the local media, if anything the local media were felt to be less sympathetic, probably because the localised events had a higher profile and people expected to be able to challenge these representations.
People clearly felt that it was the responsibility of the media to report 'the facts’, to be fair and balanced and they expected someone to address any mistakes which might appear. The experiences of people in Torrens and elsewhere suggests that their expectations will not be so high in future.
Both communities felt that they were being blamed for the violence. Neither community felt that reporrs were balanced, or that reporters took into consideration all sections of opinion. People complained that the media sought simple explanation rather than try to convey the complexity of events and the confusion of the upheavals. The general the feeling was that truth was secondary to 'news’ and that sensationalism was favoured over understanding.
The Community Inquiry was set up in response to concerns from people in North Belfast that there had been no opportunity for them to publicly recount their understandings of what had happened in the area last summer.
In the course of the Inquiry we received submissions from a wide range of community groups, activists, politicians and both residents and former residents of areas in North Belfast. Some submissions were made by individuals others were made collectively. The transcriptions of their accounts ran to over 400 pages. This report is an attempt to offer an overview of the events as they were told to us.
It is important to stress that we are talking about people’s understanding of the events rather than a singular sense of ‘the truth’. The report has tried to convey the differing, and sometimes contrasting, interpretations that people in the two communities have of what happened, and why it happened.
Rather than try to judge between competing accounts we have presented them equally, as honest understandings of what happened from the position of people who were often deeply involved at the time.
People standing on differing sides of a fence see differing things happen. Neither is necessarily more ‘true’ than the other. Each is a view from a particular perspective. One of the aims of this report is to offer each community the view from the other perspective.
Some of the criticism is directed at the other community’, much of it is directed at the police and, less directly, the various statutory agencies responsible for housing and social services, and more distantly still at the state itself.
Each of those bodies will no doubt object to much, if not all of the criticism, will deny specific events happened in the way they did, or seek to explain, rationalise or justify them. This report does not claim that every accusation is either true or justified. But the people who made them too us did. And it is their concerns that need to be addressed.
We approached each of the relevant statutory bodies to ask them to participate in the Inquiry, none of them with the exception of the Fire Brigade were prepared to do so on the same terms as those members of the community who came and talked to us. We will be going back to them over the next few months to ask for their response to the report and their perspectives of what happened. We aim to publish a follow up report later in the year.
Throughout the many and diverse submissions a number of common themes can be identified relating to people’s understanding of why the events happened, who was responsible, and how they might be avoided in the future.
The immediate cause of the violence was seen to be the disputes over the rights to march. In North Belfast this raised a number of concerns about a sense of belonging, identity with place and feelings of insecurity.
The submissions from the Catholic community assured us that they had nothing against their Protestant neighbours, but they insisted that there should be some recognition of the changing realities on the ground, that the Protestants could no longer do exactly what they wanted, when they wanted and without addressing the concerns of nationalists.
The nationalist community generally expressed a confidence in their sense of belonging in the area and in their sense of community. In contrast the unionist community felt under threat.
They believed that they were being squeezed out of North Belfast.
On one level it was felt that the Catholic community were pressurising them, as the boundaries of areas like the New Lodge and Ardoyne were extended, and once solidly Protestant areas became first mixed communities and then largely Catholic.
On a further level it was felt that the state was ‘encouraging’ Protestants to move to places like Rathcoole, Monkstown and Carrick and this was seen as a long term solution to the problems of sectarian divisions in the area. Ultimately the Protestant communities felt that they would be excluded from north Belfast.
There was a belief that this process had been going on for some years. But the challenge to the Tour of the North parade in June visibly symbolised this pressure on them in an immediate and personal level. The events at Drurucree confirmed wider fears and 1996 became the year to make a stand.
This was seen as the legacy of the sectarian divisions and fragmentation of the communities of North Belfast. For some people last summer was not unique, it was just more intense and extensive than other years. Many people noted that street clashes and acts of intimidation were a recurrent factor of life.
Everybody recognised that last summer raised serious concerns for longer term relations between the communities, but there was little agreement over how and why things happened as they did.
The main concern was with the widespread public disturbances, the rioting and the intimidation which led to eighty seven families leaving their homes between 7-13 July 1996.
However neither side were prepared to acknowledge that they were in any way to blame for specific acts of violence, the trouble was too readily blamed on outside elements, youth, drunks or was seen as a justifiable response to provocation.
This was highlighted by the issue of intimidation. Many in the Protestant community did not believe that the road blocks and street protests were intimidating, because that was not the principal intent. They also felt that some people were using this as an easy excuse to get a better house.
Catholics living in mixed areas clearly felt that the protests in themselves were threatening and reason enough for them to fear for their safety. They felt justified in calling for help from outside. Protestants in turn say that they felt the presence of large numbers of outsiders intimidating.
Neither side appears to have any real appreciation of the concerns of the other community, or an understanding of why they acted in the way that they did. This lack of understanding fuelled the violence.
Both communities had strong criticism of the actions of the RUC during last summer’s violence. Paradoxically the police were criticised both for being too aggressive and for not intervening enough.
Both sides accused the police of excessive use of force and of too ready recourse to baton rounds when people gathered on the streets or when fighting or rioting broke out. Protestants often felt that the police were unfairly restricting their rights while Catholics claimed that the police responded in a harder fashion towards them than they did to the Protestants.
On the other hand people from both communities felt that the police could have done more to prevent the trouble escalating in the way that it did. Both sides acknowledged that the RUC were often stretched in the early part of Drumcree week, but they also felt that they should have been more assertive in breaking up crowds who gathered and which were felt to be intimidating.
For nationalists this behaviour merely confirmed and hardened their expectations, but many unionists also expressed a growing alienation from the RUC.
Both communities expressed a reduction in the confidence and trust the felt in the RUC. Bridges that had begun to be built by community policing were swept away, but there was concern that little attempt had been made to address the concerns that people wished to raise over particular events of last summer.
While the RUC will challenge many of the interpretations included in this report, it is important that they address the very real concerns of the communities themselves. In some areas this is already under way, in others it has yet to begin.
We received a number of submissions from politicians and political parties, and many of these talked of their own involvement in trying to restrain the various outbreaks of trouble.
Many of the other submissions acknowledged the positive and valuable role that individual politicians played. However many also contrasted the work done by local figures with the lack of political leadership from established politicians.
There was also a feeling that perhaps it was easier for politicians to respond to a crisis rather than give any real leadership to prevent the crisis occurring in the first place.
It was suggested that political representatives should take more of a lead in promoting and creating dialogue. One suggestion was put forward for local committee or mini-council for North Belfast. While this might have promise at some stage there would be a fear here that this might run into the same types of problems as the talks process and the Forum and the dialogue would be partial and exclusive.
In contrast the formation of the North Belfast Partnership Board was felt to be a positive step towards inclusive dialogue in the area. It was also felt that the people at the grass roots and in community groups should be more involved in decision making and should be consulted over issues that directly affect them.
There were few concrete proposals put forward as to how the issue of division, mistrust and fear should be dealt with, or how similar violence could be avoided in the future. In fact it was noted that tension had remained high through the winter and there had been further disturbances in March and April this year.
It was widely felt that there was a need for dialogue and discussion, both within each community and between the two communities. It was argued that such dialogue would need to be as wide ranging as possible to incorporate all positions within both communities.
Some people emphasised the need for single identity work in the first place while others suggested that the two processes could work in parallel. In some areas groups have begun to resume cross-community work, but in others the debate is still an internal one.
However many people were simply keeping their heads down hoping it doesn’t happen again, or if it does happen, it does not happen to them. Some activists expressed concern that engaging in cross-community work can leave individuals exposed and easily identified if serious violence breaks out again.
Any substantive dialogue would need to include the statutory bodies. We have already mentioned the need for the police to address some of the concerns of the differing communities, this should be extended to agencies such as Making Belfast Work and the Housing Executive.
Many people and groups felt that they were remote from or excluded from all decision making or planning processes. This fed the type of suspicion that was expressed from within the unionist community that long term plans for the area did not include them. This insecurity in turn fed the violence.
These concluding points have focused on the concerns of communities in north Belfast, of the traumas they suffered and the ways in which they might deal with similar events in the future.
Few people, if any, have admitted responsibility for the numerous acts of violence of last summer, blame has often been placed elsewhere. In some cases the victims have been implicated in their own suffering - ‘they provoked it’ or ‘they deserved it because..’ in other cases outsiders have been seen as responsible.
A number of the submissions were made to us by individuals or by family groups who had personally suffered violence and intimidation. Most of these people are no longer a part of the community to which they once felt they belonged. All of them are continuing to live with the memory of the traumatic events that they experienced. Many were confused as to how and why their neighbours turned on them but few of them wanted to blame particular individuals for what they suffered.
When we talk of communities it is perhaps too easy to gloss over the fact that they are made up of individuals, who each make personal decisions about the appropriate ways to act in any given situation. It might appear to be difficult to claim membership of a community and yet at the same time reject any responsibility for the actions of that community. This would seem to be an issue that needs to be addressed.
Few people indicated that they would rather live in single identity communities, while many said that in the long term they would prefer to live in a mixed community.
Many people recognised that the sectarian segregation was a prominent factor underpinning the violence and that violence in turn reinforced the segregation. They also recognised that the violence was a major factor in homogenising communities, because it led to the exclusion of minorities and inhibiting voices which might object.
This is a vicious spiral into which many communities in north Belfast feel they are being drawn. The challenge is to overcome the mistmst and fear and find a means to rebuild the bridges between the two communities. This report is offered as a contribution to that process.
CHRONICLE OF DISTURBANCES
This chronology of various disturbances and violence in north Belfast has been compiled from the local newspaper, principally the Belfast Telegraph, the Irish News and the News Letter. It is not necessarily a complete account of the full range of events in this area but it does give some indication of the scale of the unrest, particularly in Drumcree week. It also indicates how the trouble continued through into the Autumn.
1. Tour of the North
First mention of the parade was in a report in the April edition of the North Belfast Independent. It noted that residents of Cliftonville, Brookvale, New Lodge and Newington were organising a petition against the route through nationalist areas and wanted to discuss their fears of possible violence with the organisers. In the run-up to the parade more frequent items appeared.
Wednesday 8 May
North Belfast Herald and Post reported that a committee had been formed to demand the parade be re-routed. The committee said they were withholding their consent to the proposed route.
Wednesday 15 May
The Herald and Post reported that Nelson McCausland (UUP) accused republicans of stirring up sectarian tension and seeking to introduce apartheid in North Belfast. He noted kerbstones had been painted green, white and gold in Clifton Park Avenue and some gables had slogan ‘Prods Keep Out’.
Friday 14 June
Cliftonville-Antrim Road Concerned Residents Association announce a counter demonstration to north Belfast parade on Friday 21 June because the Orange Order have refused to talk with them about their concerns. Spokesperson Terry O’Neill claimed they had a petition of 2000 signatures opposing the march. Nelson McCausland repeated his arguments about graffiti and argued the parade only took place every two years and would only be heard for thirty minutes and most of the music was popular tunes, hymns, Scottish or even Irish tunes’.
Tuesday 18 June
Members of CARCRA met RUC to get parade re-routed but the police refused to take decision. Spokesperson John Fleming said group members would be going to the Orange Order’s headquarters to ask them to voluntarily re-route the parade.
Wednesday 19 June
CARCRA instructed solicitors to challenge police decision not to re-route parade by a judicial review.
Friday 21 June
Headlines - IN: ‘Flashpoint Orange demo to go ahead’. BT: ‘Police Flood Parade Route - 1500 extra police drafted to flashpoint’.
The clashes at the Tour of the North parade dominated the following morning’s papers. The Irish News headlines said: 'Riots erupt as Orange march is forced through. Police accused as protesters are dispersed.’ The News Letter noted ‘Several hurt in parade clashes.’ While the Telegraph simply exclaimed ‘CONFRONTATION’. Nationalist politicians accused police of using excessive force. Gerry Kelly (SF) was dragged away by police, handcuffed and put in back of Land Rover. He escaped while he was handcuffed and these were cut off with a grinder.
Later that night two hundred people gathered at junction of New Lodge and Antrim Roads and attempted to hijack vehicles. Police sealed off lower Antrim Road. There were reports of petrol bombs thrown in Sheridan Street, a van was hijacked and torched in New Lodge. Sporadic violence continued through night in New Lodge and Ardoyne.
2. Drumcree week, 8-15 July
Monday 8 July
An Orange parade, which planned to pass along North Queen Street, was stopped by a barrier of police Land Rovers and army Saracens, rioting broke out in Duncairn Gardens as a result. The army and the police were also stoned at Cavehill Road.
Blockades were thrown up at bottom of the M2, at the West Link, at York Street and at Crumlin Road.
A commercial premises was set on fire on the Crumlin Road and a row of derelict houses was set on fire in Tiger’s Bay.
Loyalists barricaded the road to Ligoniel with trees and a burning bus, phone lines were burnt with acid and loyalist graffiti was painted on the main road. Catholic residents were hemmed in for fourteen hours.
At least four Catholic families were forced to flee homes in the Torrens area. Three of the families had only moved into the street alter ceasefire.
Ardoyne residents claim loyalists attacked a republican memorial in Brompton Park; there was sporadic fighting close to Ardoyne throughout the night and there were clashes between loyalists and nationalists at Crumlin Road/Twaddell Avenue interface.
Around midnight a suspect device was found in a phone box at the bottom of the Antrim Road.
Around 100am four classrooms were destroyed in an arson attack on St Mary’s Primary School, Shore Road. There was fire damage at Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School, Ballysillan in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Police fired plastic bullets after being attacked with petrol bombs at Robina Street, off York Road, at about 2.30am.
Tuesday 9 July
A six hundred strong crowd from Ardoyne staged a silent protest in support of Catholics at Torrens. One hundred soldiers were called to back up police who were helping families remove possessions from houses in Torrens Parade, during the removal another woman decided to leave her home.
Up to sixteen Catholic families have fled their homes in Alliance Avenue, Torrens Drive and Wyndham Street.
Two people were rescued from a first floor flat in Clifton Park Avenue after it was set on fire; three other houses were set alight and barricades were erected in the area.
There were reports of gunfire in the Ardoyne and Clifton Park Avenue areas. A gunman was reported to have been seen on Cavehill Road. Petrol bombs were thrown in the Newington area and there were reports of armed men on the streets.
Nationalists from New Lodge and loyalists from Tiger’s Bay clashed at North Queen Street. A tree was used to block Tiger’s Bay at North Queen Street.
A factory was set on fire on the Ligoniel Road. Burning cars blocked York Street and Ligoniel Road. Masked youths set fire to vehicles at the top of Oldpark Road. A burning oil tanker was used to block Shore Road.
Petrol bombs were fired through a window of the Girls Model School in Ballysillan.
Wednesday 10 July
Shore Road was closed for a while by protesting Orangemen. North Queen Street and York Road were blocked by crowds.
Skirmishes broke out between nationalist and loyalist residents and police at Ashfield Gardens, in the Skegoneill area, as four Catholic families fled their homes. Protestant residents said no-one was being intimidated.
Police fired two plastic bullets to break up a crowd of two hundred people at Clifton Park Avenue. There were reports of masked gunmen on the streets. Six families have been forced to leave their homes in the Clifton Park Avenue area.
Cllr Nelson McCausland (UUP) accused members of security forces of firing plastic bullets indiscriminately at residents in Glasgow Street, Skegoneill.
Petrol bombs were thrown in the Oldpark area and at Gray’s Lane off the Shore Road, where vehicles were hijacked and firemen were attacked with stones.
There were reports of shots being heard at Fortwilliam.
Thursday 11 July
Police fired plastic bullets after they were attacked with petrol bombs on Crumlin Road. Three people were injured by plastic bullets during rioting at Oldpark. Vehicles were hijacked and set on fire at Alliance Avenue and Jamaica Street.
Two RUC officers were shot and wounded during rioting at Ardoyne. An RUC officer was hit in the arm when a bullet penetrated a Land Rover in Duncairn Gardens. An RUC officer suffered leg burns when he was hit by a petrol bomb on the Antrim Road.
The RUC were attacked by crowds throwing petrol bombs at Brompton Park, Ardoyne Road, Alliance Avenue and in Crumlin and Oldpark areas. Vehicles were hijacked in Oldpark, Herbert Street and Alliance Avenue.
A shop at Yorkgate was gutted in an arson attack and the shopping centre suffered extensive water damage.
Friday 12 July
Three masked men claiming to be members of the IRA, patrolled the Ardoyne, armed with two rifles and a pistol, and carrying binoculars and walkie-talkies. There was rioting in Ardoyne and Oldpark, at least one vehicle was hijacked.
Burning barricades were erected on the Antrim Road and the Cliftonville Road.
Saturday 13 July
Rioters in Ardoyne attacked RUC Land Rovers with petrol bombs, the RUC replied with plastic bullets. Loyalist homes over the peace-line were attacked with petrol bombs. Residents in Twaddell Avenue fled their homes as a result of the rioting.
The Maples sheltered dwelling complex on the upper Shankill was petrol-bombed by 'gangs from Ardoyne’.
The area from Carlisle Circus to the Ardoyne and along the lower Antrim Road was said to 'resemble a battlefield’.
Sunday 14 July
There was rioting in Ardoyne, cars were hijacked and roads were blocked in Herbert Street, the RUC fired live rounds during disturbances in Brompton Park.
Monday 15 July
A ‘mob’ from the Torrens area smashed windows in houses in nearby Wyndham Street.
3. Attacks on churches and schools, late August
Saturday 25 August
Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School was attacked for the second time in six weeks ovemight. The roof was extensively damaged by the blaze and several classrooms suffered fire and water damage.
Tuesday 27 August
Protestant primary school children going to Ballygolan Primary School on Serpentine Road and Cliftonville Junior School have been subjected to sectarian threats, while slogans threatening to burn the schools have been written on walls nearby.
Wednesday 28 August
Convent of Mercy Primary School on Crumlin Road suffered minor damage as a result of an arson attack.
Thursday 29 August
Sectarian slogans defaced the homes of three Catholic families in the 'relatively affluent’ Wheatfield Crescent, off the Crumlin Road.
Saturday August 31
The Church of the Resurrection on Cavehill Road was damaged after petrol bombs were lobbed onto the roof.
The bill for damage to north Belfast schools has risen to over £1.8 million: £1 million for damage to St Mary’s, Star of the Sea and Our Lady of Mercy; the Jaffa Centre on Cliftonville Road had to be demolished representing cost of £800,000. There has also been damage to the Girls Model School.
Wednesday September 4
It was reported that the Protestant Action Force had threatened to stop swimming classes for Catholic school children at the Ballysillan Leisure Centre last week. The centre has been repeatedly attacked: nine days ago a malicious blaze caused tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage, the second attack in six weeks. A number of local councillors met representatives of the PAF and the threat has now been lifted.
4. Street Violence -
Sunday 1 September
Rioting broke out between loyalists and nationalists on Alexander Park Avenue at the end of the American Monster Trucks Show at Dunmore Stadium. The loyalists had been ejected from the stadium earlier, but waited outside, and rioting began as groups of nationalists began to leave. Police were called and they blocked off part of the area but the fighting continued for several hours.
Monday 2 September
Homes in Mountcollyer Street, Parkside Gardens and Duncairn Gardens were attacked by loyalists. Four homes in Halliday’s Road were also attacked. A resident said that trouble began around 215pm when youths from Tiger’s Bay began smashing windows in Duncairn Gardens. The mob returned about 10pm and more houses and cars were attacked.
Nationalists held a protest on Limestone Road and demanded a barrier to separate the loyalist and nationalist ends of Mountcollyer Street.
The RUC fired plastic bullets after petrol bombs and other missiles were thrown. A lorry was hijacked at the junction of Limestone Road and Atlantic Avenue and rival factions exchanged missiles on Limestone Road until 3.30am.
Sometime on Monday night five armed and masked men and a woman claiming to be UFF made a ‘show of strength’ in the Limestone area. John White (UDP) said they were probably genuine.
Wednesday 4 September
A second night of rioting in the Limestone-Mountcollyer-Duncairn area on Monday/Tuesday night led to four arrests. Dozens of windows were smashed and boarded-up in Mountcollyer. RUC and army maintained a dividing line between the two communities. Petrol bombs were found in a house in Parkside Gardens and two arrests were made.
Protestant residents claimed they were attacked by nationalists and only retaliated because the RUC did not help. They said five Protestant families had been forced to flee their homes. There were fears of moves to push Protestants from the top end of Mountcollyer and link it to the surrounding nationalist areas.
Three Catholic families fled from their homes in Mountcollyer and spent the night in Newington Community Centre. Nationalists repeated their demands for a barrier across the entrance between Tiger’s Bay and the Limestone Road and at the corner of Mountcollyer Street. Loyalists agreed that there should be a barrier but they disagreed over its position.
Police said there had been 112 incidents reported in the area since 1 April, and twenty arrests had been made.
5. Continuing violence and tension Sunday 8 September
Gunmen claiming to be from UDA broke into a house in Arosa Parade, Shore Road looking for a man. When they didn’t find him they wrecked the house.
Tuesday 17 September
A man was shot in the leg at the junction of York Road and Limestone Road. RUC said it was not sectarian.
Friday 20 September
A man was shot at the junction of North Queen Street and Glenrosa Street. A sawn-off shotgun and a hand gun were found in a house in the Fortwilliam area in a follow up search.
Saturday 21 September
Northline News on Duncairn Gardens was badly damaged in an arson attack and a shop assistant suffered 40% burns. Three men burst in on Saturday morning, doused the shop in petrol and set it alight. Reports suggested that they ran off into Halliday’s Road and that the UDA were behind the attack.
Tuesday 24 September
Unionists blamed nationalists for the attack on Northline News. Thomas English (UDP) said he had been assured that loyalists were not involved and he had received information that nationalists were boycotting the shop and the owner had been threatened before.
Monday 7 October
Loyalists from Tiger’s Bay protested as workmen arrived to erect a security fence at the corner of Halliday’s Road and Duncairn Gardens, the scene of several sectarian clashes during the summer. About thirty people, mainly women and children prevented the work from starting but after a two hour stand-off police moved in.
Loyalists said they were not consulted over the decision and the fence was restricted their access to local shops and made them feel hemmed in. A similar barrier had recently been erected in Mountcollyer with the approval of local residents.
CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.
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