Equity Diversity Interdependence
Promoting a Peaceful and Fair
Society based on Reconciliation
and Mutual Trust.
CURRENT ISSUES (AUGUST 2004)
Figures released have shown that the first seven months of 2004 have seen the fewest security-related murders since the signing of the Belfast Agreement. Statistics reveal that from 1st January to 9th August, three killings have been linked to paramilitaries.
As the 10th anniversary of the 1994 IRA ceasefire was being celebrated the local press reminded us that since then; 179 people have been murdered by terrorism, 2,300 have been victims of so-called punishment attacks; more than 5,500 illegal firearms have been seized; 11,000 people have suffered terrorist-related injuries; five police officers and one police reserve officer have been murdered; and 4,096 police officers have been injured in the security situation.
During this month, a 27 year-old man was hospitalized after being shot and attacked with hammers in his north Belfast home in Graymount Parade. In the same area a 22 year-old man suffered gunshot wounds to both legs following a paramilitary attack in Beechnut Place and a man was shot in the leg in Hogarth street. In the Elmfield area of north Belfast a 27 year-old man was shot in both ankles and in the Taughmonagh estate in south Belfast a 33 year-old man was shot in both legs. In the Lecale Street area of the city a man was shot in both legs after a gang burst into his home.
SDLP councillor and chair of the Down District Policing Partnership (DPP) was sent a sympathy card and bullets in the post.
Two hand guns, shotgun cartridges and other items were discovered in a graveyard in west Belfast. The PSNI has not attributed the find to any particular group. However, republican sources were reported as saying the find was linked to dissidents.
The PSNI had to escort approximately 80 members of Greencastle Royal Black Perceptory, bandsmen, women and children from a North Belfast Orange Hall after the hall came under siege from a group of nationalists.
Two women where subjected to sectarian abuse, one was attacked and an attempt made to abduct her in a bar in L/Derry. One of the women was wearing a GAA top. Two men were arrested following the assault, but later released without charge. In another incident, a 15 year-old boy was attacked in Lurgan and beaten with sticks by as gang of four youths. The gang had asked the boy if he 'was a Protestant'. He said he was, but when the boy could not sing the sash the gang beat him up.
Dysart Orange hall, near Newry was vandalized and daubed in republican slogans. In a separate incident at Commons Orange hall, outside Newry, Arson was blamed for burning the hall to the ground.
A bar in Co L/Derry has been forced to close following the latest in a series of sectarian attacks by loyalists. In the last incident a gang of up to 12 loyalists assaulted customers of the Clock Bar in Garvagh as they tried to board a taxi mini-bus contracted by the bar. Meanwhile on the last Saturday in August (traditional day for the Royal Black Perceptory parade) a Protestant owned pub in Bellaghy was attacked by a group of young people reportedly from the republican community.
A bus carrying GAA supporters was attacked outside Armagh as it returned from a match in Dublin. A brick was thrown, smashing a window and injuring a female passenger who sustained cuts to her face.
10 Protestant families left their homes in Torrens estate, north Belfast, amid claims of intimidation from republicans. The area of displacement backs onto a interface with the predominantly nationalist Wyndham Road. The residents claimed to have been under constant attack with one lady having had her windows smashed 26 times.
The annual Relief of L/Derry Apprentice Boys parade was marred by violence when republicans attacked PSNI with petrol bombs as the parade passed along the Waterside stretch. Trouble was also reported in Maghera when up to 100 protestors blocked the Main Street-Hall Street junction during a feeder parade.
US special envoy Mitchell Reiss was criticized after he stated that controversial Loyal Order parades were designed to 'provoke, intimidate' and 'champion their superiority'. Mr Reiss subsequently apologized and maintained that his comments had been taken out of context. He did not, however, indicate what the context was.
Minority Ethnic Groups
The heightened tensions and rise in racist incidents reported in the local press continued this month. A Lithuanian man was hospitalized after being attacked by a gang of up to seven men and women outside his home in Armagh. Six people of Eastern European and Spanish origin escaped injury when their home was attacked in the Village area of South Belfast. A Bangladeshi man, his wife and five year-old daughter escaped injury when their home in Fane street Lisburn was petrol bombed. A mixed-race couple were forced to leave their home in Comber after being subjected to an 'organized and systematic torrent of racial abuse' culminating in assault. Meanwhile, the home of three Asian men in Carrickfergus was attacked in what the police have described as racially motivated arson; the homes of a South African Family and Indian family where attacked and windows broken in Cullybacky; and in Portadown the homes of Two Portuguese families were attacked.
In light of the increased attacks on Portuguese families in the Dungannon/Portadown area the PSNI announced that a special patrol would be made in an attempt to reduce the number of reported incidents.
The names and addresses of black and Asian workers in Northern Ireland were published on racist websites. The sites, many or which support Loyalist paramilitaries, encourage racist intimidation and violent attacks against ethnic minorities.
In light of the racist attacks in South Belfast, UUP assembly member for the area Esmond Bernie called for the creation of a race forum to create 'permanent and embracing social bonds.'
Victims and Survivors
A garden of remembrance is being created in L/Derry's Fountain Estate. It is being landscaped to honour those who died as a result of the 'Troubles'. Initially, four local men will be remembered there. They are, William King who was beaten to death in 1969; Bobby Scott who was killed in 1975; RUC officer Billy Logan who was killed in 1972; and David Montgomery who was shot dead in 1981.
A memorial dedicated to the soldiers who died in the bombing of Narrow Water outside Warrenpoint was vandalized one week after being unveiled. Sinn Fein condemned the attack and MLA Caitriona Ruanne said 'these attacks are wrong and should not be happening. There is no support for them within the Republican or nationalist community.'
Flowers left at the scene where army disposal officer WOII William J Clark was killed by the IRA were handed into the police. The Tributes, left by his son Russell, were removed for fear they would destroyed by republicans.
Equality and Human Rights
A DUP delegation to the Equality Commission raised 'problems' facing Protestants seeking work in the public sector. In pointing to what he suggested was a disparity between Protestants and Catholics, Gregory Campbell of the DUP pointed to the fact that 'in the civil service Protestants make up 50.3% of those applying but only 47.7% of those who are successful.'
Crime and Policing
Figures released by the NIO show an increased in the number of people stopped and searched by the British army in the year 2003-2004. 10,921 people were stopped and questioned, an increase of 1,106 compared to the previous year.
The debate over plans to disband the PSNIs full-time Reserve began to gather steam ahead of an expected announcement by the Chief Constable. North Down DPP issued a statement indicating that it 'considered such a possibility would be a gross waste of valuable experience and resources which cannot be supplied from an other source'. The UUP also made a statement and the party's spokesman, Sir Reg Empey suggested that 'we need to retain the full time reserve until such a time as acts of completion occur and we can normalize the security situation here.'
Michael Agnew, Sinn Fein, condemned disturbance near the predominantly nationalist Fisherwick estate in Ballymena. Violence flared when people attacked traffic passing near the sight of a bonfire in the estate lit to mark the anniversary of internment in 1971. In a similar incident in west Belfast police were attacked by a gang of up to 100 people in the Devonshire area. The disturbance forced the closure of the Westlink the following morning causing long delays for commuters.
NIO minister, John Spellar pledged to use the introduction of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) in Northern Ireland 'early and effectively' The Minister's statement was received with a mixed reaction from public bodies, political parties and non-governmental organizations.
A republican ex-prisoners group appealed to the UN's Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to consider the Maze Prison as a world heritage site. The precedent for such a decision already exists as Robin Island in South Africa and Kilmainham jail in the Republic of Ireland have previously been designated.
Ulster unionists David McNarry and MEP Jim Allister called for Protestants to get a fairer share of the EU peace monies. In anticipation of an extension of the EU support package, Mr McNarry urged the NIO finance minister Ian Pearson to urgently initiate an investigation into the distribution of the funds money to date.
In a survey commissioned for Battle Field Britain, the BBC2 documentary series, it was revealed that one in ten 16-44 year-olds thought that the Battle of the Boyne was from JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.