Category: Archive

Embattled Short Strand residents claim police complicity in violence

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — Nationalist residents of the Short Strand enclave in East Belfast say morale is at rock bottom after a summer of incessant loyalist attacks and intimidation, the latest on Saturday when the area was again subjected to pipe and petrol-bombing.

Although the police claimed that they were subjected to a “orchestrated attack by republicans” from the area, with 13 of their officers being wounded, many republicans were at a debate on sectarianism at the time in a local social club.

The debate, which was addressed by Belfast’s lord mayor, Alex Maskey of Sinn Fein, journalist Susan McKay of the Dublin-based Sunday Tribune, and Dympna McGlade of the Community Relations Council, had to be curtailed early. But not before several women at the meeting were on the verge of tears as they spoke of the “hell” they have endured this summer due to sectarian attacks.

One woman asked, in desperation, how she could prevent her child becoming sectarian after he watched his home being pipe-bombed and parents terrified by continuing loyalist violence?

The meeting was informed of the violence outside and people attending rushed to ensure their homes were not on fire and that their children were safe. Local people are furious at police claims they “orchestrated” the violence.

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Despite being hardened through decades of discrimination and fear, people living in the vulnerable Clandeboye area, next to the peaceline with loyalist Cluan Place, were nevertheless shocked to discover that the fire hoses they had rigged up to douse flames when their houses were set on fire by loyalist petrol bombs, had been cut through.

One resident who asked not to be named said he had witnessed a police officer kneeling down with a penknife and cutting the hose close to a fire hydrant.

Police land rovers were also used to smash metal fire hydrants that had been supplying water.

Earlier, women had been painting cheerful sunflowers on the boards placed across windows in the area to prevent stones, metal ball bearings and petrol bombs smashing into them.

When loyalists returning from their annual Apprentice Boy celebrations in Derry began pelting them with missiles, the police arrived and began beating women and children, according to eyewitnesses.

They then sat in the road to prevent further police incursion into the area, and the violence got worse. People in the area are intensely resentful of police claims that they were responsible for attacking loyalist housing across the peaceline, most of which is now empty.

Joe O’Donnell of Sinn Fein claims he has photographic evidence of bandsmen in uniform standing on roofs in Cluan Place and throwing missiles into the Short Strand.

Meanwhile, Ulster Defense Association leader Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair is believed to have approved in advance that his own son be subjected to the paramilitary-style “punishment shooting” in both legs, according to loyalist sources.

But Jonathan Adair, aged 18, was not “kneecapped” in the traditional way. Instead, he was shot through the fleshy part of both calves about 200 yards from the family home in the Lower Shankill area of North Belfast.

The area is known as “Little Beirut” and is about the same distance from the Mater Hospital, where he was treated before discharging himself after several hours and returning home.

The wounds should have fully healed in about three weeks. Loyalist sources said his car-thieving and other criminal activities had proved too much for local UDA men to tolerate and, despite his relationship with Adair, he had to be “taught a lesson”.

The relatively mild punishment shooting, in which no bone was shattered and no arteries cut, has led many to conclude that he got off lightly.

By the afternoon, young Adair was back in his heavily fortified terraced home with his mother, Gina, and father, who was reluctant to discuss the shooting but appeared relaxed about it. He told one reporter, “I have no idea why my son was shot. We will be making our own investigations into what happened.” Adair Jr. has been beaten twice before as punishment for his criminal and anti-social activities.

From past experience of the area, where Adair and the UDA rule, there would have been much more tension if some other outside group had been involved. Inevitably, there would have been speculation about feuding or attempts to oust Adair himself.

Instead, there has been no such tension or speculation.

Neither Adair nor any sources in the area would reveal why his son had been shot this time, but one local source said: “Nothing happens in this estate without Johnny Adair authorizing it and he has just treated his son in the same way as dozens of local youths have suffered in the past few years.

“The wounds were fairly minor and he was shot close to the hospital to ensure there would be no danger of him dying from blood loss before he could get help. In Belfast terms, this shooting was a rap across the knuckles.”

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