ON January 13 twenty-nine members of the RUC/PSNI were injured and water cannon and plastic bullets were fired in Belfast as protesters clashed in escalating violence over the flying of Union flag. Bricks, bottles and other missiles were hurled in the east of the city as demonstrators were returning from a protest outside Belfast City Hall.
More than 1,000 loyalists, bombarded the British colonial police and nationalists with petrol bombs, fireworks and rocks following a demonstration against the decision to limit the number of days the Union flag is flown from City Hall. Masked loyalists, many draped in Union flags, also set cars alight and used makeshift battering-rams to attack RUC riot vehicles.
On January 14 St Matthew’s Church was bombarded with petrol bombs, bricks and bottles in another night of loyalist rioting in east Belfast. Children with special needs had to flee St Matthew’s parish hall during the attack on the Lower Newtownards Road. A local resident of the Short Strand, who spoke with SAOIRSE but does not wish to be named for obvious reasons, said the homes of the residents beside the Church were also attacked with petrol bombs, bricks and bottles. These attacks on the Church and houses beside it have been attacked on several occasions over the last number of weeks. “When the rioting began on December 3, the Short Strand was the first place the rioters made for after City Hall, and we have felt their presence ever since,” he said. “This is not the first time the local residents have had to defend the Church from attack.
“The children with special needs were terrified on Monday night [January 14] and it was sheer luck that they were all safely evacuated from the parochial hall. I have grown up in this area and year after year we have been subjected to hoards of loyalists chanting sectarian abuse, including death threats, whenever suits them, and nothing is ever done about it. Threats to kill all ‘Taigs and Fenians’ is up on social media sites for weeks now, but again, nothing is done about that either.
“Much has been said about nationalists throwing stones and bricks at loyalist homes, but nationalists were only defending their homes from the barrage of missiles and petrol bombs. We have to protect our families and homes. We cannot sit inside our homes and do nothing while missiles come through our windows and our local Church is burned down.”
There were also two attempts to hijack buses in nearby Templemore Avenue.
Water cannon was used and plastic bullets were fired by the RUC as they too came under attack from bricks and fireworks at an interface on the Albertbridge Road near Short Strand.
Countless roads have been blocked during the loyalist campaign. In one case north of Belfast a pensioner trying to visit his dying wife in hospital was turned back. He said: “If your wife was dying what would you be doing? Have a bit of sense. Protestants, you don't know the meaning of the word, take yourselves home, show a bit of respect for people.” They responded by jeering 'cheerio' in a recording made by the BBC microphones on the Rathcoole housing estate in Newtownabbey.
In west Belfast a GP was twice prevented from attending a home visit with a patient terminally ill with cancer.
The turmoil over the past five weeks has been some of the most sustained in the Occupied Six Counties since 1998. The RUC, in full riot gear, faced hundreds of masked men almost every night since the beginning of December.
It was reported on January 17 that loyalist protests were to take place during the commuter rush hour in Belfast on January 18.
‘Operation Standstill’ is also set to take place at Taughmonagh in south Belfast from 6pm, at the old town hall in Donaghadee, Co Down, from 6pm and at the council buildings in Limavady, Co Derry at 7pm.
The Woodstock Link in east Belfast was closed to motorists as protests continued to take place on January 17. Protests also took place in Rasharkin and at Bushmills in north Antrim, among other places.
The next major protest is due to take place at Belfast City Hall on January 19 at 1pm.
Loyalists are planning to hold a ‘Unionist Civil Rights Rally’ at Ebrington, Co Derry on January 27, the same day as the annual Bloody Sunday march beginning at Creggan Shops and going to Guildhall. UKIP spokesperson for Foyle, Kyle Thompson, said the party has been organising in Derry city and has been in attendance at protests.
Irish Republican Information Service (no. 309)
Teach Dáithí Ó Conaill, 223 Parnell Street, Dublin 1, Ireland, e-mail: email@example.com
Date: 18 Eanáir / January 2013
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