DERRY – At a press conference earlier on Wednesday, the Protestant Orange Order refuted claims by the head of Northern Ireland’s police that it was to blame for a weekend of rioting in Belfast and elsewhere.
This statement came hours after the announcement by Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Hain that the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) ceasefire was no longer recognized.
While there is no link between the Orange Order and the UVF, members of both organizations were involved in three days of violence in Belfast and other towns in Northern Ireland from Saturday to Tuesday.
Rioting broke out on Saturday after the local authorities rerouted an Orange Order parade away from a Catholic nationalist area of west Belfast. The order to reroute was given by the Parades Commission, and enforced by police and soldiers.
Hugh Orde, Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), placed direct blame for the violence on the Orange Order, an exclusively Protestant organization.
While the Orange Order’s grand master on Wednesday condemned the violence, he also described the police response as “aggressive and violent”. Speaking to ISN Security Watch, David McNarry, an Orange Order member and an Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) representative in Northern Ireland’s devolved legislative assembly (MLA), focused on the issues that have compounded “the fears and frustrations of the unionist people”.
“When you see decent law-abiding people acting as they did, it is time to look into the issues more deeply,” he added.
“My own people have seen 30 years of IRA [Irish Republican Army] terrorism, which has only been rewarded by the British government, and have concluded that violence pays,” McNarry said.
Meanwhile, citing the involvement of UVF members in the weekend’s violence, Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Hain declared the UVF in breach of its ceasefire, which was first declared in 1994. Hain was responding to a report on the UVF from the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), an international body set up outside the terms of the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement to monitor and report on paramilitary activities.
The UVF has for some time been embroiled in a an internal feud with another militant Protestant organization, the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). During this turf war, families have been expelled from homes in Belfast, and there have been at least two related murders in recent months.
In response to the Hain declaration, Alban Maginness, a Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) MLA for North Belfast, called the declaration “belated”, saying that “the government’s failure to do so before now gave the UVF a false confidence in relation to their feud with the LVF and their defiance of the police”.
Maginness, whose party represents moderate Catholic Republican opinion in Northern Ireland, told ISN Security Watch that “the Orange Order remains totally unrepentant for its role in fomenting violence over the weekend”.
Meanwhile, the violence, though less spectacular than that witnessed from Saturday until Tuesday, continued at a number of locations. Police say six petrol bombs were thrown at police foot patrols and vehicles in Lisburn outside Belfast.Show