Strife in Ballymena

There seems to be orchestrated attempts by both Loyalists and Nationalists to stir up trouble in Ballymena over recent weeks. A football match was abandoned, a youth had his ankle broken and the police and passing civilians had stones thrown at them yesterday(BBC NI audio).

  • slug9987

    “Apparently a large group of youths turned up with hurley sticks and tricolours and a serious altercation ensued,” O’Loan said.

    Bad that they use the Irish flag and GAA in sectarian trouble.

  • crat

    Good to see the coverage given to a ‘spiralling number of incidents’ in Ballymena by the PSNI, BBC, SDLP and Slugger’s now an ankle has been broken by the rampaging taigs. Ian Jnr condemned it too so the ‘spiralling number of incidents’ caused by these fenians to the isolated Protestants of Ballymena must be unbearable. Thank God our attention has been drawn to the ‘spiralling number of incidents’ in Ballymena and thank god that thanks to the SDLP, PSNI, BBC and Slugger’s we now know the ‘spiralling number of incidents’ in Ballymena are inflicted on honest and faithful British Protestants by filthy Irish Catholics.

    It must be dreadful to be an oppressed isolated prod in Ballymena and this coverage is a long overdue revelation of their suffering.

  • oliver.gorringe

    Crat

    “It must be dreadful to be an oppressed isolated prod in Ballymena and this coverage is a long overdue revelation of their suffering.”

    When set upon by a gang wielding hurling sticks, I am sure it must be.

    Also, when a gang of youths turn up with hurley sticks and tricolours, shout sectarian abuse, causing a football match to be cancelled, it is fairly clear there is a deliberate attempt at escalation going on. It doesn’t matter whether they are the minority in the town, or whether they are probably the majority in that locality. The SDLP consistently criticise that, regardless of the side it comes from. GOOD FOR THEM.

    It really saddens me that you should take the attitude you have. As Slug suggests, the gang here do both the tricolour, and Gaelic Games, a great disservice, as well as stoking up trouble, trouble that has been brewing for some time, is spiralling, and could well get nastier as the provocative nature of these actions invite retaliation (which I hope and pray does not come about).

    Yes, I am glad this is being covered – it is important.

  • Alan2

    Actually it was made abundantly clear that there had been a CYCLE of agitation by BOTH Loyalists and Nationalists in the area at that this was the latest in a SERIES of events over recent weeks by BOTH sides.

  • crat

    I thought my obvious sarcasm recognised and mocked any true reporting of ‘cycle’, ‘both’ and ‘series’?

    I’m questioning the BBC, SDLP, Slugger and PSNI coverage.

    I understand why the DUP wish to draw our eyes to this incident in isolation.

    The PSNI, BBC, Slugger’s and the SDLP haven’t seen fit to care about Ballymena until it was the fenians in the park with the hurley stick.

    I’m not promoting their actions just highlighting what seems to count as the only headline worthy sectarianism in Ballymena. (did I miss the other reports here?)

  • Alan2

    Point them out by all means. I certainly seem to recall stories in the media of roaming gangs in cars on the look out for lone Catholics.

  • oliver.gorringe

    Crat I believe there has been ongoing coverage of sectarianism in Ballymena, you will remember the coverage of the Harryville situation, and then more recently there has been ingoing coverage of the Dunclug estate, once a pleasant mixed estate and now gradually being torn apart. In particular the SDLP have been highlighting problems for years in that part of Ballymena – both councillor PJ McAvoy and O’Loan. Why the problem with the SDLP comenting on this, shoudl O’Loan have kept stum because this originated from co-religionists. Good on him that he didn’t. There are social problems too with drigs. The town is not a sort of protestant equivalent of Newry, it is much more mixed than that. I worry that someone would think to deploy sarcasm “how awful it must be” when someone gets his jaw and ancle broken for being of a particular religion.

  • Declan O’Loan

    Let’s just say it’s nice when some people do stick to the facts.

  • oliver.gorringe

    Declan
    As someone who lives near that area, I wonder if you could fill me in on what is happening as you see it? It does worry me. Are things getting worse?

  • middle-class taig

    It must be my imagination, but certain news outlets and organs of the state always appear able to immediately identify a sectarian motive when a member of the unionist comunity is the victim of an attack. However, where a nationalist is the victim of an attack open minds are kept, no possibilities are ruled out, motives appear unclear, lack of comunity engagement with police is bemoaned, worthy hands are wrung and cross-community transfers are courted. Unless of course it can be asserted that “Capital R Republicans” dunnit.

    “Apparently a large group of youths turned up with hurley sticks and tricolours and a serious altercation ensued,” O’Loan said.

    How dreadful that nationalists should appear with their sporting equipment in an area where other sports are being played. Don’t they realise how inflammatory and intimidating this is to the beleaguered (sp?) “enclave” unionist community in Ballymena.

    How thoroughly believable that they were aggressively sporting tricolours so as to identify themselves. Don’t all nationalists carry one around at all times? I know I do. Maybe they’re required to do so in Ballymena as a form of leper’s bell.

    If the explanation here is on the level, then these nationalists should catch themselves on. The injury to the young lad should be the subject of an immediate and genuine apology from nationalist comunity leaders in Dunclug (whoever those are these days). However, you’ll forgive us if we suspend disbelief. This has all the classic hallmarks of an exaggerated green-bogeyman tale to frighten the children.

  • Jacko

    m-c t

    Call it imagination if you like,it sounds more like paranoiac mopery to me.

  • middle-class taig

    “mopery” – that’s original Jacko, and in the very next post! – wow!!

    no mopery here Jacko – my eyes are wide open – but thanks for confirming your own blinkered view – I shall now feel comfortable disregarding any further contribution from you

    and remember children, we must oppose mopery; it rhymes with popery!

    or pot-pourri, or something….

  • oliver.gorringe

    Well I am very worried and unhappy at all the sectarianism, FROM WHATEVER SOURCE INCLUDING MY OWN SIDE.

  • GavBelfast

    The customary sad, sad state of denial is on show here – it just happens to be republican denial this time.

    Same-old, same-old – so depressing.

  • oliver.gorringe

    I am worried though about this year. It has been apparently going on since St Pats day. I hate to see the sectarian tensions and I am worried and depressed from whatever side, I remember being very depressed at the loyalist targetting of the Sinn Fein members last year, and talking about it on Slugger. I don’t feel “happier” or “less happy” depending on whether it is a co-religionist, its a cycle or a spiral, so its more complex than “they started it”. But if the story as reported is correct then this does look like an attempt at upping the ante. I can only go on the reporting that I get. And I very much hope things do not deteriorate further.

  • middle-class taig

    As am I Oliver. I’d like to know what’s real and what’s illusory, though, before I condemn a small nationalist community which is historically much more sinned against than sinner. I struggle to imagine that Ballymena nationalists think their interests lie in provoking their unionist neighbours. Remember what happened as a result of the electoral provocation in nearby Antrim in 2001?

    By the way, notwithstanding my whingeing above, I thoroughly admire public representatives of enclave communities everywhere. Must often be a thankless task. Especially with middle-class dilettantes criticising how you go about it.

  • oliver.gorringe

    Middle Class Thank you for stopping the sarcasm (I am not a great at dealing with that). I am sure that Ballymena catholics are more sinned against then sinner historically.

    “I struggle to imagine that Ballymena nationalists think their interests lie in provoking their unionist neighbours”

    What I am also convinced of is that Ballymena nationalists don’t support the slogans for dissident republicans, and are not with the Ballymena RIRA people who put firebombs in the town centre, who recently were in court.

    I say that as I’m Ballymena and I know a lot of Ballymena nationalists, it is a surprisingly mixed town I think outsiders don’t always realise that. I don’t think “enclave community” is really the right term-the chapel and surrounding area, where I believe the greatest concentration of catholics are, is really quite in the heart of town. Although Ballymena nationalists no doubt have had a tough time they aren’t “enclaved”, I believe. My emotion here and my inability to deal with sarcasm is because I worry about the situation-I care about this town which I thought was showing a lot of promise. Unfortunately the councillors seem to engage in a lot of fighting recently but I am not blaming Councillor O’Loan for that, I think Councillor Stirling has been very unhelpful for the tone of the council meetings.

    I don’t really know what the Antrim situation was, sorry about my ignorance.

  • middle-class taig

    Gav

    What part of “if the explanation here is on the level, then these nationalists should catch themselves on. The injury to the young lad should be the subject of an immediate and genuine apology from nationalist comunity leaders in Dunclug” do you find difficult to understand?

    Doubtless you don’t automatically believe everything said about unionists, why should you hold us to a different standard?

  • oliver.gorringe

    “What I am also convinced of is that Ballymena nationalists don’t support the slogans for dissident republicans, and are not with the Ballymena RIRA people who put firebombs in the town centre, who recently were in court. “

    I meant to go on to say that I am convinced they don’t “think their interests lie in provoking their unionist neighbours”. You surely realise that the actions of thugs on both sides do not represent Ballymena nationalists or Ballymena unionists. I wish there was something I could do, in fact. Its pretty depressing.

  • middle-class taig

    Oliver,

    I’m sorry if my recourse to sarcasm upset you. It certainly wasn’t intended to. It was intended to challenge the premise that nationalists in Ballymena are going to want to up any ante.

    The picture I have in my head is of a few lads with hurls getting on the wrong side of a few lads who don’t like seeing lads with hurls (a sight, no doubt, increasingly common in Ballyena in recent years). It’s possible that I’m wrong about that, but the idea of a gang of little caman-carrying, flag-brandishing marauders in Ballymena is one I find hard to credit. I would react with similar hesitation to reports of Union Jack-waving vigilantes in Newry. If it turns out that I am wrong (in which case, boys a boys it must have been a while since I was last in Ballymena) then it is of course a matter of immense concern.

    Meantime, I have a concern over the whole “give a dog a bad name” thing. Nationalists in Ballymena have long been excluded from the life of the town. They’ll retreat into themselves (excluding themselves further) if they’re unfairly portrayed as aggressors. I wonder if this is secretly on somebody somewhere’s agenda.

    The less said about those events in Antrim the better. I’d never forgive myself if I put ideas in misguided heads.

  • fair_deal

    Middle class

    “It must be my imagination, but certain news outlets and organs of the state always appear able to immediately identify a sectarian motive when a member of the unionist comunity is the victim of an attack”

    It’s your imagination.

  • middle-class taig

    “You surely realise that the actions of thugs on both sides do not represent Ballymena nationalists or Ballymena unionists.”

    Do you know, I don’t accept the “thugs” analysis – that everything would be fine if it weren’t for thugs on either side bringing otherwise decent communities down.

    Trouble in towns throughout the north stems from fear – fear of attack, fear of discrimination, fear of marginalisation, fear of difference, fear of losing out, fear of uncertainty, fear that your kid’ll get more than my kid. “Thugs” are a symptom of that fear; they are the anger (born of fear) of the communities from whence they come. You don’t try to eradicate or marginalise the thugs. You don’t treat the symptom. You do something about the disease – the fear.

    I wonder if places where local government has a history of equality and cooperation have less of a history of this kind of thing? Anyone know? Do you get this in Omagh or Downpatrick or Armagh?

  • middle-class taig

    Any nationalists want to reassure me that it’s my imagination?

    Not that I don’t value your keen, sensitive, flexible insight, fair_deal

  • beano @ Everything Ulster

    MCT I can’t blame the commenters on here for jumping down your throat, the whole sarcastic tone of your original post was frankly sickening and stank of mopeing and paranoia. You could easily have pointed out your POV that there was perhaps more going on than insinuating that it was all some sort of British conspiracy to demonise all the catholics in Northern Ireland.

    Fortunately your subsequent posts have begun to redeem that, specifically your post about fear/thugs. Very interesting and something I’ll definitely bare in mind in future.

  • oliver.gorringe

    I think enclave is not the right term. Catholics are an important part of the town, concentrated at the heart of it physically, and also spread through the northern part. They participate in a pretty high profile way in the commercial and sporting aspects of the place. Ballymena is far more mixed than the likes of Newry or Bangor. I have moved around the northern part of Ballymena but always had a mix of Catholic and protestant neighbours and I liked that aspect of the place. Finally, most Catholics in Ballymena do not behave aggressively but that does not mean an unrepresentative minority never do for instance this or this dissident republican activity. These people – bigots on the nationalist side – are not representative but lets not pretend that they don’t exist.

    Here is some background on sectarian gang battling recently.

    On thugs I was (I think) saying that the thugs (and you don’t dispute that) are not representative. Like you I do think they are the symptom – that is correct – but I don’t know if they are the cause. If we knew the cause and an easy treatment of the cause we would be laughing.

    I don’t know about your fear analysis that is presumably a symptom too. And people are afraid of the culture that tolerates thuggery, a culture of lawlessness, lets not forget that. I am sure that the stoning of Linfield fans in Derry or the attacks on these Ballymena protestants, as well as the attacks on Catholics that we also have, and the attacks on racial minorities are the key problem NI faces as we move into the future. We are not unique in being a divided community. We have a terrible legacy of segregation in schooling and housing. My despair at Ballymena is that this is increasing. Now that the troubles are over and the political process more stable, I hope the politicians can turn to this. Unfortunately some of them, most of them perhaps, prosper from tribalism-and that I think is part of the cause.

  • middle-class taig

    Beano

    “I can’t blame the commenters on here for jumping down your throat, the whole sarcastic tone of your original post was frankly sickening and stank of mopeing and paranoia.”

    Je m’en fous.

    I stand by that post. I don’t know whether there’s more going on, but the whole thing smells fishy. While things are unclear, the indecent haste to say “sectarian” in the same paragraph as “hurley stick” and “tricolour” stuck in my craw and seemed out of step with the restraint demonstrated by officials, law enforcement and media alike when a taig gets a beating.

    “…insinuating that it was all some sort of British conspiracy to demonise all the catholics in Northern Ireland”

    You’ll notice I didn’t say that. Why don’t you keep a watch on these things for, say, a month; I believe you’d find the exercise instructive. Although, I’m sure like the rest of us you have more interesting things to be at.

    Oliver

    The “loss” of the troubles removed the old certainties (on all sides), and thus increased the fear for some (particularly for poor wee Mikey Mc(Ne’er)Dowell, godluvvim). Otherwise, I agree entirely with your analysis.

    Despair not. Devolution is coming and will return some of the certainties. It may get worse later, but it’s all heading in a better direction. Less fear all round. The key thing is always cooperation at local level. The council chambers need to become cathedrals of cooperation.

    Thank you for pointing up the underlying tensions for me. The fear on the nationalist side in towns like Ballymena comes from the Antrim stuff I mentioned. Fear is the most corrosive of emotions. Fear mixed with envy gives arsenic.

  • Gonzo

    At least Declan and the DUP Mayor are showing some leadership.

    Shame about some DUP in the council though.

    Anyway crat, I’d like you to do me a favour and do a wee search on Slugger and point out the posts that justify your assertion that Slugger only covers Ballymena when it is nationalists attacking a protestant.

    Despite that, the story is newsworthy in isolation, since it is such an unusual event. That, I’m afraid, is what ‘news’ is. Sadly, sectarian attacks are so common that most don’t merit more than two paragraphs in a side column.

    When was the last time a Prod got his pan knocked in by nationalists in Ballymena (and then spoke to the media)? No I don’t remember either… hence, a story.

    At the very least, you should consider that such attacks on Ballymena Prods by nationalists happen so infrequently, as to be newsworthy when they do occur. And also that Ballymena has a degree of symbolic value, being the buckle on the Bible belt, Paisley’s (adopted) hometown, and all the other stereotypes, and that this is a bit of a disturbance in the force for the average Ballymenian.

    Ever hear of ‘man bites dog’?

  • joe

    I think this just sounds like youths fighting youths.It happens everywere.

  • ex-pat

    have those posting on this page still got the blinkers on, with a few exceptions. the fact of the matter is that Ballymena has always been a cold house for catholics, at least those who consider themselves Irish and not mere subjects of a foreign, uninvited and unrepresentative occupier. There are many examples of catholic youths being beaten in the street, to draw atttention to one particularly nasty incident, the “riot” on william street about 3 years ago when the RUC riot squad arrived to “sort out” the issue of a tri colour being erected. Common sense didn’t prevail in this scenario, instead of allowing the crowds to disperse after the pubs closed the RUC beat everyone in sight with their battons. When this disproportionate response is the example set by the so called forces of law and order, how is possible that the youths present that night can in any way feel welcome in the sectarian and backward town that responds to the flying of the national flag with “police” battons? Is it any wonder there is a backlash, not by any means appropriate, but merely inevitable in the face of a culture of being made to live in a town where you are treated as a second or even third class citizen.

  • ex-pat

    have those posting on this page still got the blinkers on, with a few exceptions. the fact of the matter is that Ballymena has always been a cold house for catholics, at least those who consider themselves Irish and not mere subjects of a foreign, uninvited and unrepresentative occupier. There are many examples of catholic youths being beaten in the street, to draw atttention to one particularly nasty incident, the “riot” on william street about 3 years ago when the RUC riot squad arrived to “sort out” the issue of a tri colour being erected. Common sense didn’t prevail in this scenario, instead of allowing the crowds to disperse after the pubs closed the RUC beat everyone in sight with their battons. When this disproportionate response is the example set by the so called forces of law and order, how is possible that the youths present that night can in any way feel welcome in the sectarian and backward town that responds to the flying of the national flag with “police” battons? Is it any wonder there is a backlash, not by any means appropriate, but merely inevitable in the face of a culture of being made to live in a town where you are treated as a second or even third class citizen.

  • Davros

    foreign, uninvited and unrepresentative occupier.

    ex-pat – do the people where you live regard you as a foreign, uninvited and unrepresentative occupier ?
    LOL

  • middle-class taig

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4439261.stm

    Not quite on point, but still demonstrates open minds being kept, motives unestablished and CERTAINLY no rush to blame. Quod erat demonstrandum, I rather fancy.

    Pie anyone? Humble flavour. Beano? fair_deal? Gav?

  • Biffo

    middle-class-taig

    I assume the owner is paying good money not to be attacked by loyalists.

    This wasn’t a sectarian attack, this was racist. Happens all the time, what’s anybody doing about it? Bugger all, especially the police.

  • middle-class taig

    I didn’t read that on the BBC, Biffo. How come they’re suddenly so coy about telling it like it is, Ballymena-style?

  • GavBelfast

    First comes the ‘in denial’ phase, then when that passes, it’s the customary ‘whataboutery’.

    I read the Ballymena story, which reliable sources don’t appear to be disputing. Declan O’Loan, someone who sticks his head above the parapet and commands a fair amount of respect, would appear to have basically confirmed what happened here.

    If something’s wrong, it’s wrong. That’s the way Mr O’Loan appears to have called it, I’ll go along with that.

    Humble-pie? Why? Had it been loyalists dishig it out, I would have felt exactly the same way. It’s called consistency, and maybe that’s where we differ.

  • middle-class taig

    Gav

    There are none so blind as those who are not prepared to even look, never mind see. Pathetic.

    I hove no doubt whatsoever as to your consistency. Consistency in the indefensible is no virtue.

    My point was borne out. A bigger man would have grudgingly acknoweldged that. Your loss.

  • GavBelfast

    MAT,

    Perhaps your ‘handle’ should have warned us about you.

    Take advice of your own adage, eh.

  • middle-class taig

    Yes, I’m sorry Gav. Your suspicions are correct. I am, in fact, one of themmuns. Aren’t we tedious?

  • emer

    Never wrote any comments on Slugger before, Just motivated by reading the comments tonight on Slugger and the election of Monica to Council. Just for the record, Declan O’Loan does a superb job of representing his constituents here in North Ballymena. Im not a natural SDLP voter – but it is the truth. He is a brave, courteous and fundamentally decent man.With regard to the outsiders view of our town a something of an Orange bastion – thats actually quite untrue. The “top of the town” – basically the estates/roads around the chapel – are predominantly Catholic / Nationalist – and are quite strident and forward looking in that respect with regards to expressing cultural and political aspirations. In addition its a great plave to live and bring up children in a mixed (although largely RC ) environment. Having said all that – our Protestant friends and neighbours living in this end of the town must feel a little threatened at times by the wilder fringes of nationalism as witnessed by the firebombers / rioters in dunclug etc – and one fears that they might feel unvalued here – which is far from the case ; and I say once again Declan is to be congratulated for his brave stand in defence of our neighbours in this regard. Would that only Sinn Fein be so strident in defending our Protestant neighbours right to live free from fear – real or imagined. I voted SF in every election since 1989 but by his actions on the ground Mr O’Loan has been responsible for a rethink on my part of late. SF should take a long hard look at just who they select to represent their views in this end of North Antrim – witness Mr Agnews recent performance at the Courthouse. Nationalists in Ballymena dont need painted kerbstones, RIRA graffiti or spurious bonfire “celebrations” to remind them they are Irish. Rather the dignity and courage displayed by the SDLP Councillor for the area. Emer

  • Bill H

    Been a long time since I lived in Ballymena and I will agree it was always a cold house for catholics but if this is peace you can keep it. I have read all your comments and it seems very little progress has been made to move away from entrenched tribal loyalties. I know nothing of what it is like to live in the Ballymena of today but I know what it was like in the Northern Ireland of the sixties, seventies and eighties and by the tone of the posts I have just read and the news articles of recent weeks, you could be back there in double quick time. By all means debate but try to do it with an open mind. I am aware that to do that we would have to overcome a national trait which we all share. Is narrow mindedness the only thing we have in common? I’m glad I left, and and before you say it, So are you!