Sunday, 13 July 2014

Is this the alternative to unwelcome marches through Greater Ardoyne?

As most people are now aware, the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) withdrew it's planned protest against the Orange Order's Twelfth morning march through our community. There were a number of issues that influenced GARC's decision in not holding such a protest. One of the main reasons was to help ease tensions within the Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist community about the Parades Commission to ban the evening parade on the same day. The Collective sough to demonstrate our goodwill toward the Orange Order and express again that GARC do not seek to end their culture and heritage in anyway. Whilst GARC oppose Loyal Order parades through Greater Ardoyne, it does so in the knowledge that there is an alternative route open to the Orders, where NO offence would be caused to local residents.

Last week, GARC held a well-attended Press Conference where a detailed and independent report into it's 2009 Survey of Greater Ardoyne residents views on Loyal Order parades in the area was outlined. The Collective provided maps and copies of a recent recording by Activists to the assembled Journalists and Residents of it's proposed alternative route. A route that could well enable Loyal Orders use for parades, without opposition from Residents Groups whatsoever. The proposal was not really carried by BBC Newsline or UTV News, though a number of Newspapers published it's details. GARC believed it was crucial for it's private position to publicly outlined, given misrepresentation and misinformation by some Nationalist and Unionist Political Parties and Groups. Until  now, it's public position had been No Parades - No Violence. Sadly, that message had been misinterpreted by Unionists and the Media. Obviously, GARC also had a radical private position but did not wish to make it known to wider society. Thus, it was kept private until dialogue between the Collective and Orders took place. Therefore, below are two internet links to two separate videos, GARC's latest press conference and the other of the Harmony Lane/Bridge route. A lane that GARC believe could provide an alternative to years of dispute regarding Loyal Order Parades in Greater Ardoyne. A route that could resolve serious tensions for all communities in this part of North Belfast. The Alternative Route is nothing new to the debate surrounding parades. It was first raised by the defunct, Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group (APDG). However, GARC feel it is the best way to resolve the ongoing issue. Alongside 



Personally, I believe if the Loyal Orders and GARC met it could not only lead to a better understanding of the two positions. It would also end in agreement by everyone concerned, leaving the future for all much brighter. What confuses me is the current unwillingness of the three local Orders to meet GARC and explore a way forward. Dialogue cannot hurt anyone, nor can it hinder anyone. Harmony Lane could present everyone with a much needed alternative to years of dispute, disagreement and of course the unwanted and associated violence. The publication of the Alternative Route video and of course, the Survey Report would not have been needed had the Loyal Orders positively responded to GARC's offer of dialogue in May of this year. Sadly, GARC have yet to receive any direct contact from the three Orders and this is quite regrettable given our genuine attempt to engage.


In the absence of meaningful dialogue, GARC will pursue it's objectives as it has always done in a peaceful, radical and determined manner. Last week, GARC engaged a Solicitor and Barrister and began legal proceedings to take a Judicial Review of the Parades Commission's decision to permit the morning march by the Orange Order through our community. The case did not take place due to the lack of time available and legal costs. Although unsuccessful on this occasion, GARC will continue it's Campaign to end all unwelcome parades. If necessary, the Collective will utilise the judicial avenue again to ensure that the rights of the Greater Ardoyne Community is respected! Since our formation in 2009, GARC have proven time and again that we can mobilise huge numbers to change the dynamic in favour of residents rights to live free from sectarian harassment. Likewise, we can also demonstrate our willingness to suspend mobilisations whenever we choose.

Finally, here are a few pertinent questions which readers of this blog should ponder. How much longer will the Orange Order persist in it's refusal to meet GARC? Would it not be better to begin dialogue now in the aftermath of the Twelfth? When will the Loyal Orders enter into dialogue with GARC? Others within the Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist Community are willing to speak with the Collective and to listen to us, why not the Loyal Orders?

Sunday, 6 July 2014

GARC Withdraw Mass Mobilisation Plans for Unwelcome Twelfth March Statement (6/7/14)

The Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) has asked me to publish their latest Statement to the Media on the Ardoyne Republican Blog. GARC reiterate it's opposition to sectarian parades through the Greater Ardoyne Community. However, the residents group has withdrew plans for a mass mobilisation on July 12th, 2014 after determinations by the Parades Commission and widespread community consultation...

GARC Protest 2012
"GARC is a non party political residents group that is committed to peaceful, radical activity that will lead to the end of all unwanted sectarian Loyal Order marches through Ardoyne, Mountainview and The Dales.

GARC have demonstrated our ability since 2010 to ensure that residents have the opportunity to participate in mass mobilisations of those oppos
ed to sectarian parades, including sit down protests, whiteline pickets and two counter parades attended by thousands of people. Our analysis that no sectarian parade is welcome in Greater Ardoyne was validated by a survey delivered to every home in the area, with over 90% of 1200 responding homes stating that all Loyal Order parades through our community are unacceptable. Our ability to again call thousands onto the streets to oppose either morning or evening parades should not be underestimated.

This past week has seen two contradictory determinations from the Parades Commission, one rewarding the Orange Order and UVF for putting this community under siege since July 2013, while another came to the logical conclusion that the evening parade was unjustified in seeking to trample over the rights of residents. It is the opinion of GARC, and by extension most Greater Ardoyne residents, that both parades should not pass through our area. We have demanded to meet the Parades Commission to put forward this argument this week, and this will happen in coming days.

The solution to the vicious circle of unwanted parades, loyalist intimidation, community disruption and PSNI violence against the people of Greater Ardoyne is to use the alternative route via Harmony Lane. This would provide the Loyal Orders with the totally legitimate right to express their culture and heritage where they are welcome, while causing no offence to residents and ensuring no need for massive funds being allocated to "security" and away from frontline services such as health and education. While our analysis would be that the route is already viable, any cost to the Stormont Executive of upgrading it to a standard acceptable to Loyal Orders would be minimal in comparison to the £10million it has cost to uphold the 2013 determination.

GARC remain willing to meet and talk with the Loyal Orders directly or indirectly, individually or collectively, to give our analysis and to listen to that of others. With this in mind, and following intensive community consultation since this year's determinations were made public, we have decided to withdraw plans for a mass mobilisation to oppose the 12th morning parade. This will help contribute to what we hope will be a conflict free 12th of July, that will lead to a conducive environment for talks in coming weeks around securing the use of the Harmony Lane route. However, we will have a number of residents present at the 12th morning parade to monitor for any breaches of the Parades Commission determination. Activity open to any resident, as GARC members proved in Court.

We would call upon other residents groups and political parties to support and promote the alternative route as the only viable and sensible solution to the issue of sectarian parades in Greater Ardoyne, rather than entertaining the "morning acceptable, evening unacceptable" argument. We would ask that they help to form a united campaign against the continued denial of Ardoyne, Mountainview and Dales residents to live free from sectarian harassment and intimidation".

Signed; GARC Steering Committee

Thursday, 3 July 2014

(EXCLUSIVE) GARC Letter of Invitation to Loyal Orders for Dialogue


The following letter has been published with the approval of the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC). It was sent by recorded delivery to the Ligoniel Orange Order Lodges, Royal Black Institution Branch and Apprentice Boys' of Derry Ligoniel Walker Club on May 21st, 2014. 

The above Orders regularly march through the Greater Ardoyne Community without any consultation with local residents. The three letters were posted to the West Belfast Orange Hall requesting talks with the three Loyal Orders to discuss our analysis their position in relation to unwelcome parades. 

Even before today's determination by the Parades Commission, GARC has not received any response. GARC hope that this publication will help everyone understand their current position on the issue. 

Secretary, 
Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective
(GARC)
MAY 21st, 2014



Secretary, 
Earl Of Erne 1932 LOL, 
C/O West Belfast Orange Hall,
Shankhill Road.
Belfast.


Dear Secretary,

Firstly, we would like to explain to your organisation about the origins of GARC and why our Collective was Constituted in 2009.  

After the disbandment of the Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group (APDG) in 2008, a number of local residents decided to conduct a survey of every household in the greater Ardoyne area concerning Loyal Order parades through the community. As well as, how best to end the negative impact these marches had on the wider community. The survey was pretty time consuming and took over three months to complete. We subsequently complied a report and delivered to every religious, community and political group represented in the locality. The report found that the vast majority, 98% of residents viewed these Loyal Order parades as Anti-Catholic, Anti-Nationalist & Anti-Republican and as such were not welcome in the greater Ardoyne community. The findings were given to a number of Community and Political groups for the purpose of providing a definitive answer to the opinions of local residents on this issue.

Around the same time, another group called CARA was also established. However unlike the APDG, all members of CARA had to reside within a specified couple of streets. Everyone else was deliberately excluded, unless you happened to be a member of Sinn Fein, They are also directed mainly by S/F members that do not even live in Greater Ardoyne. The fact that we had to outline how and why GARC was established proves that there is a clear lack of understanding within your organisation and community.

Over the past number of years, the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective have held a number of peaceful protests and marches opposing Loyal Order parades. We have also issued regular statements to the media and to the internet. In each and every one, we have stated that we do not wish to hinder the Protestant religion, culture and heritage. We reiterate those sentiments again here today. We must however, state clearly that Loyal Order parades through Greater Ardoyne have negatively impacted on both our communities.

In an attempt to foster a better understanding of one anothers positions and explore the possibility of ending the ongoing problems associated with unwelcome parades, we invite your Order to enter into discussions with GARC that may benefit our respective communities.
Yours,
The Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective
(GARC

Saturday, 21 June 2014

No Need for Bonfires

Over recent weeks, groups of teenagers from the Ardoyne & Bone areas have been gathering wood and dumping it at the old Jamaica Inn/Egg Factory site in the district. The site has been derelict for the past year or so and is in the process for a new housing development. 

Prior to the Seventies, Bonfires in Nationalist districts of Belfast every August were a regular feature to celebrate the birthday of the Mother of Jesus and Catholic areas at the time each had their own bonfire. I believe these bonfires were in direct response to the Unionist ones' that were burned on the eve of the Twelfth commemorating the 'Battle of the Boyne' in 1690. 

After Stormont introduced Internment Without Trial in August, 1971. Nationalist Bonfires were used to demonstrate opposition to that traumatic period in our history, when hundreds of men were trailed from their homes across Belfast by thousands of British Troops, beaten, interrogated and imprisoned. In Ardoyne, hundreds of families were forced to flee their homes after Loyalist Mobs attacked them and destroyed a number of streets. Two local residents were also murdered that particular day by British Soldiers, Sarah Worthington in Velsheda and Paddy McAdorey in Jamaica Street. Mrs. Worthington, a Protestant was shot and killed in her own home. While Paddy Mac, an IRA Volunteer was shot dead engaging British and Unionist Snipers firing into the area. Therefore, Internment plays a large role in the collective memory of the Ardoyne community. 

Internment Day, Ardoyne, 1971
Volunteer. Paddy McAdorey IRA
As the British Government's Internment policy continued throughout the early Seventies, many more local people found themselves behind bars. Regular protests and marches were held across the North, on one infamous rally, fourteen unarmed Civilians were gunned-down by the British in Derry City in what became known as, Bloody Sunday. Springhill and Ballymurphy in West Belfast were also targeted by the same murderers. When eleven residents were cut down in cold blood. These incidents and many more radicalised the majority of Nationalists. Not only against Internment but also the British Occupation of the Six Counties. Internment officially ended in December, 1975 and my Dad who had been interned twice on separate occasions in Long Kesh, was the final Internee to be released. 

During the Eighties, the anniversary of Internment continued to be marked with bonfires. However, every year serious riots erupted with increased suffering for those communities including Ardoyne. Sadly, the British Crown Forces swamped Working-Class Belfast and proceeded to create havoc, arresting scores of young people and firing lethal Plastic Bullets indiscriminately. Many of those killed and injured were not even involved in riots and as the facts demonstrate, young children were deliberately targeted by the British Army and RUC.  

In spite of Internment 'officially' ending in 1975, thousands of Political Prisoners remained inside at the behest of the British Penal System. The vast majority of POWs', were forced to wait without bail behind bars for up to two and three years before a trial in a Diplock Non-Jury Court, before charges were dropped. In other words, 'Internment By Remand'. As with Internment, the vast majority of Political Prisoners in the North came from Nationalist Communities and most seasoned Civil Rights Observers viewed this policy as 'Collective Punishment'! 

Towards the end of the Eighties, Nationalist Community and Republicans began organising alternatives to Bonfires through annual Festivals or Fleadhanna in a number of Belfast districts. This was greeted passionately by residents, particularly young children and parents. Given the years of Bonfires and associated violence, the Fleadh became a relief to everyone. The Fleadhanna were also a positive manner in which one could commemorate Internment by holding Plays, Murals and Exhibitions etc.  

Despite plans in the offering for a Fleadh in Ardoyne  was erected in Cranbrook Court in 1989 and became a magnet for young people. On August 8th, a riot ensued in the street with intense fighting and the mass shooting of Plastic Bullets at youths and residents. The Provisional IRA were also at the scene and responded in kind. Later the same night in the New Lodge area, another bonfire attracted hundreds of people including, Seamus Duffy (15) from the Bone. As ever, rioting broke out between British Troops stationed in nearby Girdwood Camp and the RUC in Mobile Patrols. Young Seamus was struck by a Plastic Bullet fired by the RUC as he ran away from the armoured vehicles and tragically died soon afterwards. 

RUC Members Armed with Plastic Bullet Guns
Seamus Duffy (15), Murdered by the RUC

The killing of Seamus Duffy, riots and Bonfires reinforced the belief amongst many with Nationalist Belfast that a real alternative was needed. There could not be a repeat of 1989. Since then, the vast majority of Nationalist Bonfires have disappeared and residents embraced Fleadhanna across the city. The sounds of rioting, shootings and bombings was replaced with music, laughter and happiness in the narrow streets of North and West Belfast. The British Crown Forces no longer had an excuse to swamp Nationalist & Republican communities in hostile fashion and trigger-happy! 

Sadly this summer, groups of youths from in and around Ardoyne have been collecting wood for a Bonfire. Local Youth Workers, Sporting Figures and Political Parties and Groups represented in the Community have engaged with these young lads and asked them not to have a bonfire in Ardoyne! A number of Public Meetings have also been held in which scores of residents have expressed their disapproval at plans to erect a Bonfire. 

The Republican Network for Unity (RNU) have been one of many Parties who have met the young people involved and told them of our objections and reasons behind them. We have also explained our involvement in the Anti-Internment League who last year organised and held a successful March in North & West Belfast to commemorate all the men & women Interned in the Seventies and to highlight ongoing abuses of Human Rights against Irish citizens by the British Occupiers. We have also informed them about plans for yet another Anti-Internment March for this August and the need for everyone including them to support events organised by the Committee that will be published soon. RNU like every other Republican Party and Group do not want a Bonfire and we will actively work to ensure that it doesn't happen.  
  

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Nelson McCausland and his Feeble Attempts to Demonise GARC and Misinform the Public

North Belfast DUP MLA, Nelson McCausland has for the past few weeks used his internet blog to undermine and demonise the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC). It is no coincidence that these 'attacks' have taken place since GARC wrote to the 'Ligoniel' Branches of the Orange, Black Institutions and Apprentice Boys Of Derry. The three Lodges who insist on parading through the Greater Ardoyne community, against the wishes of residents. In a genuine attempt to break the logjam surrounding failed talks between the Orders and a section of residents, under the umbrella of the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents Association (CARA). Around a month ago, GARC wrote to the three Lodges offering dialogue. However to date, no acknowledgement or response has been forthcoming.  
DUP Minister, Nelson McCausland
Instead of using his influence within the Orange Order and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) as an Elected Representative in a positive manner to try and help solve the issue of unwelcome parades. McCausland has only muddied the waters, by using his blog to target and demonise GARC and it's Committee. On June 12th 2014, one post was directed against former Election Candidate and GARC Spokesperson, Dee Fennell. The said post was entitled; 'Dee Fennell - Greater Ardoyne Resident'? The entire thread was focused on whether Dee resided in Ardoyne or not and listed two street names as his residence. McCausland is well-aware that the listing addresses of Election Candidates, Republican Activists and Residents Spokespeople in the past led to them being targeted by Loyalist Paramilitaries! 
Nelson Flanked by Orange Colleagues and UVF Commander, Winkie Irvine

Did Nelson McCausland consider that Dee Fennell and/or his family may have been hurt in an attack by Loyalists? Is his Internet post dangerous, given the recent Conflict that raged in and around Ardoyne, in my opinion it is! A number of Loyalist Armed Groups including, the UVF & UDA remain active. Is this the way a so-called Government Minister employed by the Stormont Assembly behave. Is there not a Code of Conduct for Ministers and MLAs'? For the record Nelson; every single member of the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) lives within the Greater Ardoyne Community! I wonder will the Media, Orange Order or the DUP challenge Nelson McCausland about him targeting a former Election Candidate and his family. I wonder will the Stormont Parties censor or report the DSD Minister to the Standard's Committee for such a dangerous statement? I highly doubt either of the above a chairde, as it seems Stormont is a law onto itself! 

Earlier today, Tuesday June 17th, 2014 another post appeared on Nelson's blog, 'The Minister's Pen'. Concerning 'Dissident Republican Groups'. In which he made a number of erroneous points about the Republican Network for Unity (RNU)! Firstly, he claimed that RNU is a 'Dissident Republican Group'. He also stated that 'RNU is the Political Wing of Óglaigh na hÉireann'. In response, RNU is certainly not a 'Dissident Republican Group', we are a legitimate Political Party, registered at the beginning of this year. RNU is not the Political Wing of any Armed Group whatsoever. We do recognise the reality that as long as, Irish National Sovereignty is denied by the British Government. That Armed Resistance to the Imperialist Occupation in Ireland will continue. Finally, the fact that Nelson mentions myself in the post confirms my earlier point regarding his attempts to demonise and target GARC of which I am also a Committee Member! Which is nothing to do with RNU but the fact that I reside in Greater Ardoyne. 


Instead of posting irrelevent posts on his blog about GARC and feeble attempts to demonise the GARC Committee. By attempting to link us to 'Dissident Republican Political Groups' and 'Armed Republican Groups'. Being connected to Political Parties or Political Groups is permitted according to Irish & British law. There is not the slightest shred of evidence that anyone within GARC has or is been involved in armed activity in any capacity. Despite his efforts to twist and misinform his readers. Nelson McCausland would be better trying to create space for proper dialogue between local residents and Loyal Order Lodges who insist on marching where they are clearly not welcome!  

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Will the Orange Order Respond Positively to GARC's Offer of Dialogue?

Last week, a delegation from the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) met the Parades Commission in Holy Cross Monastery facilitated by the Rector, Fr. Gary Donegan. The meeting took place as the Commission was preparing to rule on an application from Orangemen based in Ligoniel and two Loyalist Flute Bands who wanted to march through the Greater Ardoyne area. GARC have in the past met a number of Commissioners but on this occasion it was an entirely new P.C. The other pressing issue was, there was widespread speculation that the application to march would be granted. 


Given the fact that GARC had been prevented from partaking in talks between the Orange Order and another Residents Group, CARA. It was crucial that the Commission heard GARC's analysis of the situation facing the local community associated to unwelcome sectarian marches. According to the delegation, the discussion was positive, frank and enlightening. The Commission was given access to GARC's mandate, the thousands of completed surveys compiled in 2009 and a the recent letters inviting the Orange and Black Institutions to enter into talks. That to date have yet to be responded to. Commissioners listened to GARC's concerns based on representations from the community. That if permitted, another parade would inevitably cause serious conflict in the area. There was a little confusion about why GARC had been excluded and continues to be disallowed from the talks process. The Collective outlined the strength of objections to GARC and the political interference by Provisional Politicians.  

In the end, the Parades Commission banned the three Orange Lodges and Flute Bands from parading through Greater Ardoyne on June 7th. Citing the lack of dialogue between the Order and local residents. As well as, over seventy breaches of parading laws during the nightly marches by the same Lodges and Bands at the Twaddell Interface. The Greater Ardoyne Community was rightly pleased at the realistic decision to reroute the march away from the Interface. 
Typical Orange Attitude in Belfast
As I said earlier, GARC had invited Orange Order, Black Institution and the Apprentice Boys' of Derry to enter into dialogue with them. It was a sincere attempt to begin a process of talks to try and resolve the whole issue surrounding unwelcome parades through Greater Ardoyne and difficulties associated with these marches. GARC has yet to receive a response from any of the Orders. It does not give GARC or the wider community much hope as ignoring GARC's attempt at dialogue only reinforces local suspicion about the sectarian and isolationist nature the three Orders hold against Ardoyne. On Thursday June 12th, the same Commission refused to allow a similar march again to march through Greater Ardoyne next Friday evening. The 'Tour of the North' as it is known is held every two years by the Orange Order in Belfast. This year however, they want to parade again in what can only be described as provocative. Particularly after last week's march being banned. 

An Offensive Woodvale Resident

So now we're well into the marching season, when sectarianism intensifies across the city. More so in North Belfast where Nationalist and Unionist communities live in close proximity with one another. Since 1968 onwards, the Woodvale and Ardoyne areas have endured many violent Twelfths associated with unwelcome parades. Is it not time for everyone concerned to get around a table and try and sort the whole issue out to the betterment of all communities? GARC made the the first move inviting the Loyal Orders to dialogue, will they receive a positive before this July? 

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Racism & Sectarianism is Black and White

Over the past few weeks, racism has raised it's ugly head in Belfast yet again. It isn't at all surprising given the history of sectarianism in such a divided city. Where generations of residents have endured hatred of one kind or another. To the extent that too many people were killed because of their religious or perceived religious identity.


Between 1966 and 1998, thousands of Belfast families were not only forced to leave their homes because of serious threats, brutal attacks and terrible killings. My own family was but one of many from the Ardoyne district who fled after a grenade attack on our house by Loyalist Militants in 1969. Later the same year, hundreds of local families, most with young children grabbed small amounts of belongings and crossed the Down and Louth Border to relative safety.The majority of who were housed in Free State Army Camps until attacks by the murderous RUC and their Unionist Allies calmed down. Sadly, some never returned North and moved to Scotland, England, Wales and of course down South. 

I know there are many within the Unionist Community who fiercely reject suggestions that the RUC murdered anyone and claim it's republican propaganda. In response, may I point them to the names of Sammy McLarnon and Micheal Lynch. Both of who were shot and killed by RUC Members on August 14th, 1969 in Ardoyne. Or that Unionist Mobs burned dozens of Ardoyne families out of their homes in a number of local streets. Again I make a suggestion to look at the photos below of Brookfield Street and/or check the official records. 

Brookfield Street, August 1969
Now to present day Belfast, for the past number of decades. Emigrants from across Europe and beyond have chose to visit, travel, live and work here. The overwhelming majority of Belfast citizens have been content to share their community with people from a range of different countries, colours, cultures and religions. The emigrants live in our streets, work the same jobs and their children learn in our Schools, Colleges and Universities. With the exception of a few bigots, almost everyone has embraced one another and their lives have been enriched with new horizons. 
East Belfast, 2014
In response to the growing number of racist attacks across the city and gross insults against ethnic minorities by Senior Unionist Politicians and Fundamentalist Preachers. A number of mass rallies have been held outside the City Hall, once the bastion of sectarianism by ordinary Belfast residents. Where a huge demand for equality and an end to racism in all it's forms was demonstrated with confidence. Racism is the flip side of the Sectarian coin and Republicans, Socialists and Democrats must ensure all cultures are welcome and that bigotry is exposed & challenged whenever and wherever it occurs. ! 

Belfast March Against Racism, June 2014