Police lost the run of themselves in East Belfast?

Alex Benjamin is a communications expert with the UUP. He was working in party offices in East Belfast on Saturday as events kicked off. What he saw of the police action clearly shook him up considerably. He takes up the story below:

By Alex Benjamin

From the outset it should be pointed out that I have no axe to grind. I’m not an Orangeman and not protestant. But the scenes I saw on Saturday as I worked in Michael Copeland’s and Sir Reg Empey’s offices is East Belfast were shocking and have had a profound affect on me.

The spin coming from the Police and Secretary of State would suggest that Loyalists were solely to blame for the events of the weekend. Having not been up in the Highfield area, I can’t comment on what occurred up there, but from my experience of events in the East of the City, to suggest that the Police acted in a proper, correct manner would be stretching the truth’s elasticity to breaking point.

I have always defended the police, having no truck with paramilitaries of any persuasion, and over the years I have formed the view that paramilitaries are actively hindering development in many working class areas.

That aside, what I witnessed on Saturday was a provocative, rampant police, completely disinterested in taking effective measures to calm the situation, instead opting for heavy-handed tactics which I 100% believe led to the escalation of the situation.

Orangemen and supporters gathered outside the Orange Hall at 2.00pm before making their way up to the Albertbridge to make a peaceful protest. The merits of this protest are not for me to argue. They came under sustained stoning and bottling from Short Strand residents who had clearly come prepared. The police response to the attacks from Short Strand residents was woefully inadequate. Rather than move in to prevent the attacks from continuing they more or less passively stood by and allowed the situation to develop.

When Loyalists began to return stones the Police eventually sprang into action. There was a palpable sense of frustration that the Police were effectively turning a blind eye to Short Strand residents but were ‘rushing’ those on the Loyalist side.

After a period of calm the protesters at the bridge were able to make their way to the interface at the corner of Albertbridge road and Castlereagh Road. Stone throwing ensued. What followed next, in my opinion, utterly defied logic:

The Police surged up the Albertbridge Road. And I mean surged, knocking women to the ground with their Land Rovers and pushing and hitting people who were in their way. Had these people been rioters with scarves around their faces or brandishing petrol bombs they could have at least had an excuse. But women with no weapons and political representatives who were trying to reason with them and defuse tensions where herded like sheep going to an abattoir.

The UUP offices became a safe haven for those caught in the street as Police edged up the road and forced the rioters up towards Templemore Avenue. In the street I saw an elderly man in his 70’s who was forced to the ground, had his head truncheoned and when he raised his hands to protect his head, he had his hands truncheoned too. The force was so great it split his finger open. We managed to get him, concussed and rambling, inside the offices and administer some basic first aid, others followed young and old with head injuries or other injuries.

We called an ambulance which arrived swiftly and departed just as swiftly as some of those injured were reluctant to go to hospital. The ambulance driver said that they couldn’t get out and treat the wounds so I told him we only had basic first aid and said we needed stuff. He produced a bandage out of his pocket and said that was all he could give me!

The Police, now right outside our offices, were clearly amped up and enjoying the situation, many laughed and smiled to each other and I heard some shouting ‘Orange bastards’ or ‘Protestant bastards’ at protestors. Many deliberately pointed rifles or plastic bullet weapons at protestors. It was blatantly provocative and I couldn’t believe my ears or eyes. Some women in the office were hysterical, one woman just sat in the corner with her head in her hands quietly sobbing. It was horrific.

As a Communications professional, I am aware of the tools and various mechanisms that can be used to get your point across in the media. The Police and Secretary of State have been quick to apportion blame and wash their hands of any involvement. The media have been quick to adopt their line, too hastily in my view.

I must say, having witnessed first hand the Police tactics employed and the manner in which they undertook their ‘operation’, my faith and trust in the Police has taken a substantial hammering.

  • springfarm

    “AS: you are a numbskull of magnificent proportions..”

    VICTOR1 I guess you don’t know the differnce between playing the man and playing the ball.

    I know what you call the old ladies. I can read. It was Republicans who attacked them.

    As the census data ouput shows from my above post – 6 out of 275 doesn’t really mean there are lots of Prods about the SS. They were all mostly put out.

    CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW THE SS HAS WENT FROM AROUND 40% CATHOLIC TO 97% CATHOLIC???? Hardly a welcome place for Prods.

    Oh yes to answer your point about no Catholics being allowed to live on the N’ards rd. Well I thought I’d show you a census output covering Dee ST (now you can’t get more ‘unionist’ than there).

    postcodes:
    BT4 1FB, BT4 1FT, BT4 1GB, BT4 1GD, BT4 1GG, BT4 1GH, BT4 1GJ, BT4 1HN, BT4 1HR, BT4 1SX

    Catholic 13
    Protestant and Other Christian (Including Christian Related) 260

    So there you have it – more than 2 times the number the opposite way in the ‘warm house for Prods’ SS.

    PLEASE LOOK UP THE CENSUS DATA BEFORE YOU EMBARRESS YOURSELF FURTHER

    You have not tackled any of my points but instead have resorted to childish name-calling. SHAME ON YOU!
    Yes I support the PSNI 100%. I respect law and order. Do you?

    I don’t think that SF have done much for the McCartney’s.

    I recon a vote for SF is an endorsement for the IRA. Don’t you?

  • Jo

    “Ask yourself why do Prods keep moving out of areas that become increasingly Catholic????”

    …suspicion, sectarian bigotry and hatred?

    Much the same with US whites moving out of areas when a black family moves in.

    Ever hear of the phrase “There goes the neighbourhood”?

  • VICTOR1

    I recon a vote for SF is an endorsement for the IRA. Don’t you?

    NO I DON’T!

    Yes I support the PSNI 100%.NO I DON’T

    respect law and order. Do you?

    YES I DO!

    PLEASE LOOK UP THE CENSUS DATA BEFORE YOU EMBARRESS YOURSELF FURTHER The census data I have already responded to this in an earlier post and stand by what I stated then!

    CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW THE SS HAS WENT FROM AROUND 40% CATHOLIC TO 97% CATHOLIC????

    Explain NO! hazard a guess albiet an educated one, they can’t have a Catholic about them so they up sticks and left!

  • springfarm

    VICTOR1, so SF are not the IRA? I won’t even give that a response as it is so ridiculous. Martin and Gerry were never members of the IRA.

    As you can see from the Census data – DEE ST accomodates more than twice the number that the SS accomodates. How does that square with your ‘Not a fenian about the place’ rationale???

    Q. Why are Protestants ‘British’
    A. Because want to be the opposite of what the Republican movement is

    DON’T YOU KNOW THIS??? We have no real love for the English. We are simply a product of social conditioning which has set us at the polar extreme of Nationalism.

  • Nordie

    “DON’T YOU KNOW THIS??? We have no real love for the English. We are simply a product of social conditioning which has set us at the polar extreme of Nationalism.”

    You are nationalists…you are British nationalists, that’s why you love to be surrounded by 20,000 Union Jacks at any given point in time.

  • lib2016

    The Short Strand has been a Catholic enclave under sectarian attack since the nineteenth century.

    Goole Belfast history short strand

    or

    http://timelines/ni/belfast/riots.shtml

  • barnshee

    O dear another slap for the plods –and from an ex plod!!

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/letters/story.jsp?story=661520

    Just as well the RA is standing down -looks as if the PSNI are going to have enough to do with the prod

  • Antrim Springfarm

    Lib, the Short Strand in NOT UNDER SEIGE AND NEVER HAS BEEN. It is laughable to say it is under seige. Cluan Place however is under seige.

    A community under siege does not shoot 5 innocent Protestants, some of whom were BOARDING UP THEIR HOMES AFTER BEING ATTACKED by violent Catholics.

    Tell me how many Catholic homes are lying empty in the SS?? How many Protestant homes are empty?
    I think you are in denial.

    But we are glad the security gate is up – this will help stop the Catholic violence.

  • VICTOR1

    The security gate since it went up has only served to hide the Loyalist cowards from launching attacks, this was clearly seen on video when a catholic family came under pipe bomb attack and had the opportunity to capture the scene from thier loft!

    A community under siege does not shoot 5 innocent Protestants

    Your right a community under siege defends itself from the murderous onslaught and uses arms when nescessary to repel those attackers, one of whom was a leading Loyalist paramilitary and has been for many many years, I could name him by the way, but he claims to be a community worker now!
    Back on the empty homes theme again AS, getting a little repetitive now eh, well I’ll address that issue one more time shall I, Loyalist paramilitary protection racketeering keeps builders from renovating these homes, therefore they become uninhabital therefore they lie empty! Also housing shortage is at a premium in catholic areas given that they can only live in catholic districts, unlike Protestants who can happily live in Catholic areas without fear of persecution.

  • East Belfast

    I wish to write in support of Alex Benjamin like him i was also there not as a rioter but as a local resident everything he says is correct thank he has the courage to tell the truth.

  • springfarm

    “uses arms when nescessary to repel those attackers..”

    I CANNOT BELIEVE WHAT I JUST READ ABOVE!!!!!!

    VICTOR1 I am amazed you can be so blatant about your support of terrorism. Your extremist views are astonding.

    You call shooting unarmed (teenage) boys in the back, men shot whilst boarding up their homes and a cross-community worker shot whilst trying to talk some sense into the youths DEFENDING YOUR COMMUNITY???

    Do all the Catholics on this forum share this analysis??

    VICTOR I gave you the census figures and yet you still continue to argue about catholics not being welcome in Protestant areas. Why would you argue with the independent census figures???

    Your fantasy story about UDA protection rackets preventing homes being re-built in Madrid St is a joke – CONSIDERING THERE IS A SUBSTANTIAL H.E. REDEVELOPMENT ROUND THE CORNER AT LORD ST which the UDA haven’t stopped. Or maybe they just didn’t feel like stopping that project this time around. What a joke.

    Mick I think VICTOR has stepped over the line here advocating that people should take up arms. Can HE/SHE not have their comments censored???

    SHAME ON YOU.

  • cluan place

    What alex saw was a peacful protest attacked first of all by nationalists within the Short Strand which was watched by the P.S.N.I for several minutes before they deployed officers. The protesters where then pushed along the Albertbridge Road by the P.S.N.I who then used access force agaisnt women and children, as the day went on it was obvious that the police officers where getting heavy handed towards anyone in the area. ie baton rounds used agaisnt young children, a gun put to the head of a 70yr old lady outside her own home, people beaten to the ground and then attacked, the list goes on but these are just a few. So i applaud Alex for making his comments and hope that other people would take a note out of his book and start telling the truth.

  • VICTOR1

    Absolutley stand over all I stated, you again are trying to play with words, nowhere in my above post have I advocated the support of Terrorism, defending ones home can hardly be pronounced as terrorism. The community worker was and is a leading Loyalist Paramilitary hardly an innocent bystander, the others were at the time attacking the homes in Clandeboye estate with pipe bombs,petrol bombs and whatyever other assorted weaponary they managed to get thier hands on, that is the reason they were shot, I know that I live here!!
    Are you saying the UDA don’t run protection rackets against builders now if theres a joker in here I feel it must be your good self!!!
    Back to the old censureship call again, I remeber that has been tried and tested didn’t work before maybe you would like to silence me as you CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH.

  • cluan place

    What alex saw was a peacful protest attacked first of all by nationalists within the Short Strand which was watched by the P.S.N.I for several minutes before they deployed officers. The protesters where then pushed along the Albertbridge Road by the P.S.N.I who then used access force agaisnt women and children, as the day went on it was obvious that the police officers where getting heavy handed towards anyone in the area. ie baton rounds used agaisnt young children, a gun put to the head of a 70yr old lady outside her own home, people beaten to the ground and then attacked, the list goes on but these are just a few. So i applaud Alex for making his comments and hope that other people would take a note out of his book and start telling the truth.

  • cluan place

    What alex saw was a peacful protest attacked first of all by nationalists within the Short Strand which was watched by the P.S.N.I for several minutes before they deployed officers. The protesters where then pushed along the Albertbridge Road by the P.S.N.I who then used access force agaisnt women and children, as the day went on it was obvious that the police officers where getting heavy handed towards anyone in the area. ie baton rounds used agaisnt young children, a gun put to the head of a 70yr old lady outside her own home, people beaten to the ground and then attacked, the list goes on but these are just a few. So i applaud Alex for making his comments and hope that other people would take a note out of his book and start telling the truth.

  • Antrim Springfarm

    The Catholic gunman was seeing dancing on the roof of the houses after he took pot shots at innocent people. The were boarding up houses at the time of the shooting!!!.I know the community leader and can also name him (how impressive!).

    I can’t believe you would support this. Notice how no-one else of this forum is backing you up? They are also ashamed of your extreme views.

  • VICTOR1

    I fully support the right of those under attack to defend themselves, that is what happened in this case. I seem to remeber a farmer in England shooting a thief who broke into his home and posed a threat to him and his family, same thing he defended himself with the use of arms as he was under attack,,,,was that TERRORISM?
    as for no one backing me, i’m not here to gain support or backing I state what I feel without duplicity, do you?

  • trev

    cluan place

    Do you think that hundreds of masked loyalists heading towards a catholic area could be seen as being threatening.

    Why were many of them armed with cudgels ?

    Just out walking the dog officer !!!!!

  • barnshee

    Victor1
    “I fully support the right of those under attack to defend themselves”

    So the UVF and UDA attacks over the years “to defend themselves” are OK??

    Don`t think so –but what`s sauce for the goose…

  • sarah

    In responce to lunar’s comments posted on September 12th, i totally disagree with your remarks , as i too was present and witnessed exactly the same scences as alex benjamin. Mabey the people of Short Strand should shoulder some of the blame, as we were holding a peaceful protest just like the residents of Short Strand have done on many occassions. We were attacked with a barrage or bricks bottles, stones, sledgehammers, and many other objects. The residents of Short Strand were prepared as they were able to walk around with hurley sticks and golf clubs, whilst all we wanted to do was show people that we have a culture too. If you can’t understand the importance of tolerance and mutul respect this society is indeed in difficulty.

  • sarah

    In responce to lunar’s comments posted on September 12th, i totally disagree with your remarks , as i too was present and witnessed exactly the same scences as alex benjamin. Mabey the people of Short Strand should shoulder some of the blame, as we were holding a peaceful protest just like the residents of Short Strand have done on many occassions. We were attacked with a barrage or bricks bottles, stones, sledgehammers, and many other objects. The residents of Short Strand were prepared as they were able to walk around with hurley sticks and golf clubs, whilst all we wanted to do was show people that we have a culture too. If you can’t understand the importance of tolerance and mutul respect this society is indeed in difficulty.

  • VICTOR1

    Sarah I as a resident of the Short Strand know full well the tolerance and mutual respect Loyalists in East Belfast show the residents of that district, residents like John McKay who in the early hours of sat morning before your so called peaceful protest, was beaten near to death by those very same pillars of our society! Tell me do Sarah how far from your home did you travel to be attacked by the Short Strand residents? also Sarah did you see any of the 700 masked Loyalists who attacked the PSNI for hours on end,robbed local shops,ripped a bank machine from its wall, fired shots,petrol bombs,pipe bombs,blast bombs and all manner of weapons? Were the peaceful protestors armed and ready for battle or was this just an after affect of police brutality. Sarah point the finger by all means, but at least try to be honest while pointing, are the Loyalists of East Belfast as blameless as the Orange Order for the mayhem that ensued or is it that Republicans hatched a secret plot to lull the poor Loyalist community into doing their dirty work, condone or condemn seems it doesn’t matter to the Orange they don’t know the difference!

  • even more disgruntled

    Really have to laugh at some of the comments on here about the letter by Alex Benjamin, a lot of you seem very quick to dismiss what he has said. Now tell me how many of you were actually there and saw what did or didnt happen? Yeah just a few, as for the rest who all seem to want to put down Alex letter i think you would better to remain silent about something you know nothing about. Far too many people are telling the same story of Psni brutality, are they all lying? I wonder. Personally i wasnt there so i cant say either way but what i do know is from personal experience and not related in anyway to the recent trouble is that the current Police force can only be described as a joke some of its officers are arrogant bastards, that are not one bit interested in solving crime but much happier generally harassing people going about their daily business. As i have said in a previous post on this site. How many convictions is there against those who attack and rob the elderly? How many convictions since the murder of Lisa Dorrian or Mr McCartney. To much paper work I fear

  • Bigfoot

    Having read most of the posts I am disappointed to note that no-one has comment on the lack of DUP condemnation of the “riots”. Mr Paisley and his cohorts were not so slow to make their voices heard in the ’70’s – makes one wonder who really is behind the violence!!!

  • VICTOR1

    A good point Bigfoot, not only Paisley, but where is Peter Robinson? Sammys in the nude Willson? and co, by the way that other great leader of Unionism Reggy has made a belated condemnation today though that was after meeting the Brits Peter Haine, so maybe he goot his knuckles wrapped.

  • lib2016

    I have not as yet seen any unionist politican, not one, condemn either the UDA or UVF by name though they seem to have no trouble condemning everybody else. Maybe it’s just an unfortumate coincidence but I can’t help remembering a certain paramilitary figure explaining that he ‘knew the colour of the wallpaper’ in a lot of front rooms.

  • Antrim Springfarm

    SF have never once condemned the IRA violence so why should anyone need condemn the violence at the weekend?

  • jodey

    The DUP & UUP claim to be democrats, thats the difference

  • springfarm

    Are SF not democratically elected? After all they always bang on about their mandate if anyone tries to chastised them for their wrong-doings.

    Lib, incase you didn’t know…but I will let you into a little secret..the big man and the organisations don’t really get on…shushhh..

  • Moderate Unionist

    Victor1
    Do you think there is any chance of reconcilliation between the prods and catholics at any time in the future?

  • VICTOR1

    As far as I am aware Protestants and Catholics get on together all over Ireland, I doubt the handful of Neanderthals that are trolling our streets at the minute would even know the meaning of reconcilliation though one lives in hope.

  • VICTOR1

    Moderate Unionist : Further to your question may I add, I feel the real problem here is lack of Unionist Leadership, Unionism doesn’t have the confidence to argue a case, as there is no case to put forward. Look at the recent few days, asked what the rioting was about, and we heard,,,,,”Sean Kellys release” “The RIR disbandment” “Social infrastucture” “nobody listens to Unionism” There is only one reason and they haven’t figured it, no confidence in thier elected representatives, Unionism is led by fear where by Nationalsim is led by confidence, led to an agenda Nationalism has a focus, Unionists don’t know what they want. It’s time Unionism stopped saying NO and got involved in a political process and put thier case forward. How on earth can anyone listen to Polititions who stand outside the political process screaming NO Surrender!

  • sarah

    I have to respond to Victor 1’s comments.

    I live in Stormount Street and didn’t have to travel further than my garden gate.

    I was appallled at the violence in my area, although i don’t condemn it and i don’t condone it, it is completely understandable.

    Protestants in this area and indeed throughout Northern Ireland feel undermined and feel thier culture and heritage is being slowly but surley taken away from them.

    I also cant understand how the residents of Short Strand were able to gather prepared and attack the peacful if unlawful protest at the Albertbridge.

    Their reaction is in stark contrast to the events of last year when they themselves mounted a peaceful protest in almost exactly the same spot, which was not the subject of an attack by their Protestant neighbours.

    We ask no more than the rights of normal citizens the right to live in peace, with the knowledge that our sense of identity, citzenship and culture is acknowledged and respected.

    The fate which befell the man on the Albertbridge Road, is terrible it should not happen to anyone in a civilized society however, i am bound to say these attacks take place on an lmost nightly basis and the victimhood does belong soely to one or other community.

  • Bigfoot

    Well said Victor, at last some one has seen why unionists have lost their voice in N. I.

  • VICTOR1

    Sarah: you do not condone or condemn the violence, you really can’t have it both ways Sarah if you disagree with it you condemn it if you agree you condone you say you were appalled at the violence but are unable to condemn it! That is hypocrisy Sarah.

    I asked the question of you how far you had to come from your home to protest, Stormount Street Sarah is a fair bit off the Short Strand approximately half a mile. For the benefit of other bloggers Sarah would you like to tell us how you acquired the ability to see around corners and through walls, as Stormount Street is off the Albertbridge Rd behind a row of shops and offices, is it not ?

    I also cant understand how the residents of Short Strand were able to gather prepared and attack the peacful if unlawful protest at the Albertbridge.

    They didn’t as it didn’t as it did not happen and as you were in your garden in Stormount Street you couldn’t possibly have witnessed any of what took place, could you?

    Their reaction is in stark contrast to the events of last year when they themselves mounted a peaceful protest in almost exactly the same spot, which was not the subject of an attack by their Protestant neighbors

    The protest I assume you are referring too took place off the main Rd outside the homes of residents and the parade walked pass without interference from those protesting, contrast that with the events of the weekend!

    Protestants feel undermined Sarah due to lack of political leadership Sarah, Protestant culture has not is not being undermined, Would you not agree, the few contentious parades pale into insignificance in respect to the amount of parades that take place each year. How this could be undermining Protestant culture, unless of course those parades mean little to Protestants and the only ones that count are those that offend!

    We ask no more than the rights of normal citizens the right to live in peace, with the knowledge that our sense of identity, citzenship and culture is acknowledged and respected.

    As do we Sarah, as do we!

  • Moderate Unionist

    Victor & Bigfoot
    Do you think it is right for you to determine who should represent us. If I were to say that republicans should not elect Gerry Adams to speak for them. What if I offered the opinion that Gerry Fitt was the leader you should have listened too. What would you say? “None of my business, perhaps?”

    The current situation in Northern Ireland is the result of 7 years of foot dragging. There was a chance, but that chance has gone. Things are the way they are because people want them that way.

    There is no generosity of spirit, no parity of esteem, no willingness to see the other point of view. Just a determination to capture short term political advantage. Enjoy, you have your whole life ahead of you and things will still be same at the end of it.

    As for new leadership, people saw what happened to Trimble

  • VICTOR1

    Moderate Unionist: I certainly don’t wish to determine who represents you; I am clear though that those whom you elected do NOT! I agree fully with your assertion that the chance we had has gone and was as you quite rightly state down to foot dragging, can I just point out what I believe that foot dragging to be, We had at the beginning Unionists demands that the IRA say the war is over, we then move to decommissioning it begins, is that it do we get the process going again, no decommissioning isn’t decommissioning without verification(I thought there was an independent body to verify) then it was Pictures of decommissioning and all the time Unionist politicians were standing outside the political process, voted on, and agreed to, by the vast majority on these Islands, obstacle after obstacle, why because they wanted to keep the status quo a non equal society were, Unionists dictated the agenda.
    Talk of equality is a two way Street, take a simple issue like the funding of a St Patrick’s Day parade in Belfast, Unionists vote overwhelmingly to refuse funding to a large section of the community to celebrate a very strong important cultural event, and in the same breath vote to fund 11th night bonfires in Belfast. Take the issue of the maysfield leisure centre, Unionist voted on a sectarian basis, to build a new leisure centre and a bridge to allow Catholics to access it(we may have to were armbands by then) when all in sundry know that the maysfield site has been the most successful cross community leisure centre in Belfast and beyond! Your political representatives play politics on sectarian grounds, take the NO word out of politics and Mr. Paisley and co would be nothing more than loud mouthed nobodies!
    People like yourself Moderate Unionist need to step up to the mark with forward thinking (as it seems to me you have) it’s time to get rid of the politics of NO, Unionist worked on the GFA and came to agreement, others sat outside and shouted NO, Traitors, but to date have produced no alternative! I am glad the IRA has ended their campaign, I am glad Sinn Fein and the SDLP have forward thinking politicians to speak on behalf of nationalism. What has Unionism to fear from the political process EQUALITY?

  • VICTOR1

    Moderate Unionist/Sarah could either of you(or any other Unionist) point out where you feel Unionists/Protestants culture/heritage or lack of parity stems from, I would be very interested to know. Thanks

  • sarah

    Victor 1

    Your comment that the peaceful if unlawful protest on the Albertbridge Road was not attacked by the Nationalists from the Short Stran was incorrect.

    Should you require confirmation please feel free to telephone Chief Insoector Mike Ellis on 0289065022 ask for Strandtown and i am sure he will be able to confirm that the protest mounted on the Albertbridge Road and the Police Officers present on the scene together with their collegues from The Royal Irish indured a sustained attack from Nationalist residents which resulted in the admission of an elderly gentleman to hospital with a fractured skull.
    Two young people threw back approximately 47 mins after the first stone was thrown by the nationalsits and were restrained by the remainder of the peaceful protest.
    As i have said Nationalists blocked the same road prior to last years Whiterock deterimnation which on that occassion found in favour of the Orangemen and they did not indure any attacks from their Protestant neighbours.

  • VICTOR1

    Sarah:
    As I live here in Short Strand I have no need to seek evidence from anyone regarding the facts with respect to what happened at the weekend, and continues to happen as we speak! Your assertion two young men threw back 47mins after peaceful protestors were attacked, does nothing for your credibility! On top of that your claims to be in your garden some distance from the events also show your comments to be some distance from the truth. The pictures in the media speak volumes on how much trust we can put in your comments at this moment in time! Hopefully you will catch yourself on stop being evasive and come to realize, that Loyalist were responsible for the mayhem, certainly and I am in no position to deny, nationalist from the Short Strand were rioting with the police and that was wrong, on that same vein though Nationalist community workers were at the forefront of trying to stop them, most of them were young teenagers, and carried on regardless, did the same apply to the peaceful Protestant protestors?
    By the way Sarah, any chance you could address some of the points I made in my last two points?

  • alex benjamin

    Victor 1, i feel i must speak up for sarah here. The re is no doubt that loyalists REACTED following the attack on the peaceful protest from the short strand, the sitaution was exacerbated by the heavy handed response by the police who treated the agitators and instigators from your community with kid gloves but came in heavy on those who were forced to react following the provocation and follwoing this heavy handedness (the very point i was trying to ake in my original post!!!), you can cast doubt on our accounts but i really fell no reason to fabricate stories to make a political point, in fact the point i was tryi ng to make was not political at all, merely to highlight how the police handled a sensitive situation atrociously.

    To answer your question on where the lack of parity comes from, the answer is simple – government. The way the government bends over backwards to help republicans, is prepared to write off robberies, murders, gansterism and terrorist records, the way they are prepared to facilitate the ochestrated republican objective of eradicating every vestige of protestant and/or british culture from Northern Ireland and pour millions into the Irish language when more people here speak mandarin or cantonese is proof enough. to answer your point on forward thinking: I think even you could admit that the UUP was more than prepared to engage in forward thinking and try to reach accomodation. But when those with whom you negotiate, stall, prevaricate, renege on arrangements, continue to hold on a private army despite a commitment to exclusively peaceful and emocartic means and repeatedly refuse to stretch themselves, well frankly your ardour and enthusiasm for them quickly evaporates

  • Moderate Unionist

    Victor
    To every action there is a reaction. When people feel under threat whether real or imagined they adopted a defensive position. It is virtually impossible to shift people when they are in this mode. If you really want to move things forward you must find ways of providing comfort and reassurance to the other side.

    The real problem for the protestant working classes is that globalisation has destroyed their employment prospects and thus their independence and self respect. 30 years of civil war has meant that Northern Ireland as missed out on the multinational bonanza that the south enjoyed. We do not have and will never have corporation tax at 12.5% the real source of the South’s tiger economy. Nor will the south be able to resist the forces of globalisation. Education is the only way forward, but if you live in a community where it is easier to make money out of state benefits than to the real world why should you bother.

    With regard to equality. The republican side has largely seen a rise in living standards as the public sector has grown, whilst the unionists have seen a decline as traditional industries have declined. This is nobody’s fault but it does explain attitudes. In such circumstances people look to the past as the glory days (and this is not about supremacy).

    It is my view the marches should be allowed only in areas where they are non contenious, but and this is a big but, when you get situations like drumcree where the unionists agreed not to walk through the tunnel provided the could walk down the Garvahy Rd. When this is then rescinded it looks like (and is) negoitating in bad faith.

    It was never clear if republicans really wanted to find a solution or just advance their aims.

    We do not want to enter a United Ireland, Republicans are insisting that this will happen. No deal.

    Republicans have nobody left to negoitate with and have only themselves to blame. I doubt if it will worry you greatly.

  • VICTOR1

    alex benjamin :

    I asked the question of you with respect to the masked men(police reported up to 700 men on the Albertbridge Rd, nowhere in your account (which is highly dubious considering you were IN the UUP offices) have you mentioned them, why not?

    Are you concurring with Sarah’s account? 47 minutes after a peaceful protest was attacked by Nationalists, two Loyalist youths threw back, come on Alex, you seem to be an intelligent person but you do yourself and more importantly your community a disservice by ignoring the truth and the facts.

    To answer your question on where the lack of parity comes from, the answer is simple – government.

    Would this be the British government, whom Unionists aspire to?

    is prepared to write off robberies, murders, gansterism and terrorist records

    Was it just Republicans who benefited from this? Tell me Alex what your reaction to the UVFs continuing murder campaign is and your government’s lack of response? The intimidation in Garnerville, should the police have reacted to the UVF in the same way or do as they done on Sat past?

    they are prepared to facilitate the ochestrated republican objective of eradicating every vestige of protestant and/or british culture from Northern Ireland

    Would you like to produce some evidence of this eradication? There are well over 3000 parades every year. Less than 1 per cent is contentious, is this eradication of orange culture? As for the Irish language issue, here again brings the question of parity, I and most Nationalist have no problem with the funding of Ulster Scots, more power to those who speak it, actively promote it, and actively seek funding for it, but, and here is the issue I pointed out earlier with respect to political leadership, Sinn Fein and the SDLP actively sought funding for the Irish language, it is high policy within both nationalist parties, do the Unionist parties show the same commitment to Ulster Scots? Irish language pre-schools and primary schools are now thriving and there are Irish language secondary schools in Belfast, Armagh, and Derry, pupils at these schools are doing exceptionally well.

    And yes I do admit the UUP got involved in the political process, but were always looking over their shoulder at the DUP, (read Newton Emerson’s article there’s a link on slugger somewhere).

    But when those with whom you negotiate, stall, prevaricate, renege on arrangements, continue to hold on a private army despite a commitment to exclusively peaceful and emocartic means and repeatedly refuse to stretch themselves,

    I addressed this issue earlier, but just to restate, the Unionist political parties continuously moved the hurdle with respect to the IRA and their commitments, and carried out an act of decommissioning that I think even astounded John De Chastelain, but to Unionism it meant little. Unionist politicians continuously tell the Unionist people that they are on the verge of loosing everything, but do little to fight for what they perceive to be lost.

    By the way Alex, I am quite sure Sarah is capable of replying herself as she has done in a number of posts to date!

  • VICTOR1

    Moderate Unionist
    I thank you for an honest and genuine reply most of which I agree with by the way.

    We do not want to enter a United Ireland, Republicans are insisting that this will happen. No deal.

    so your telling me Republicans are not entitled to aspire to a United Ireland! I do not have a problem with your aspiration to remain British but I do wish to change your mind through a process of negotiation.

    With regard to equality. The republican side has largely seen a rise in living standards as the public sector has grown, whilst the unionists have seen a decline as traditional industries have declined. This is nobody’s fault but it does explain attitudes. In such circumstances people look to the past as the glory days (and this is not about supremacy).

    This is someone’s fault though, if Unionist parties had represented their people rather than the NEVER/NO politics then those industries might well be still here, otherwise they should have been dealing with educational issues, the problem is the Unionist political parties are so out of touch with the electorate they have no need to represent them, a few sound bytes from a loud mouth doe’s little for the people on the ground!

    but if you live in a community where it is easier to make money out of state benefits than to the real world why should you bother.

    I really don’t believe you stated that, and take it from your remarks you have never had to survive on state benefits! Thank you again for your reply.

  • alex benjamin

    Victor 1,

    yes there were masked men, they appeared following the impotent police reaction to the short strand provocation and when the police decided to storm the albertbridge road as far as templemore avenue. i was in the UUP offices but ventured out in the street on a couple of times to observe the situation,(until such times as it was no longer safe to do so. Yes i concur with the broad thrust of sarah’s account although i couldn’t be categoric on timings. To deal with some of your points:

    We aspire to remaining British, we don’t aspire to any Government in the same way you probably aspire to a United Ireland and not the incumbent government.

    Yes primarily it was republicans who benefited from this as they have a large mandate and could have formed part of an administration/government has they not been so obstinate in their refusal to let go of the IRA and on-going gangsterism. I hate paramilitaries of any persuasion, and loyalist ones in particular leave me ice-cold.I will not defend their actions or their behaviour in the past, present or indeed future.

    The difficulty is that every parade to a ntionalist is contentious. there is zero tolerance for any expression of orange or british culture, i mean i’ve been to gaelic matches, i don’t care that near where i live there are gelic flags up or that people want to be Irish. I respect diversity and difference but i find your community less than tolerant and indeed bordering on fascist, and i say that as a Jew with full understanding of cultural fascism!

    re newton’s piece- the fact that a columnist from NI’s nationalist newspaper critiques the leadership of the UUP is hardly a matter for surprise or, indeed, regret.

    The advice proffered by the Irish News – for the UUP to abandon loyalist areas – would hand these areas over to the paramilitaries. Strange advice from a paper that lauded Hume’s overtures to Republicans in the early 90s. Abdication by the UUP in loyalist areas would do nothing to promote peace and stability in NI.

    That the Irish News is unwilling to accurately or fully quote UUP press releases is, of course, hardly surprising. The Ulster Unionist leadership has been unambiguous in its complete opposition to the violence. Sir Reg’s first statement responding to the situation, began by declaring: “First, we must state clearly that whatever reasons may be advanced for the causes of what happened, there is no excuse for shootings, blast and petrol bomb attacks”. The Deputy Leader of the Assembly Party, Danny Kennedy MLA, stated: “there is no justification for the disturbances and reckless and violence we have witnessed in Northern Ireland over the past number of evenings”. Leader of the UUP group on Belfast City Council, Cllr David Browne, stated: “there is no excuse for the violence we have witnessed in Belfast’s streets in recent days”. All of these statements have been available on the Party website and were distributed to all media outlets in Northern Ireland

    According to Emerson, however, this is ‘equivocation’… a clear case of not letting the facts getting in the way of another anti-unionist column in the Irish News.

    lastly, the fact that you refer to a ‘hurdle’ when talking about IRA decommissioning speaks volumes. it meant little to Unionism because we could not see it, feel it or get the sense that it changed anything. I’ve been involved since 1999, talks after talks, your politrical representatives have done nothing to reach out…what are we supposed to be garteful that the IRA are no longer beating and shooting and murdering the army and police and blowing us up???

    Yes, sarah can spaek for herself, believe me i’ve been on the end of her verbal lashings from time to time lol…

  • Moderate Unionist

    victor1
    Nope never been on benefits, but I did grow up in a 750 sq.ft semi and went to a grammar school courtesy of the 11+.

    My problem is not with tacking social deprivation (by giving people benefits) which I think that it should be on a similar basis to that when we give aid to Africa. (Don’t just send them food show them how to dig wells – and stop the war. Obviously, you have to deal with short term emergencies but this should not become the norm.)

    Thank you for your considered response. BTW The basis of all long term settlements is trust and there isn’t much about. In fact the last seven years have destroyed what little trust there was.

  • crat

    Alex,

    Is the following statement from you a deliberate lie or genuine error?

    ‘pour millions into the Irish language when more people here speak mandarin or cantonese is proof enough’

    You integrity has been questioned already. Following up with falsehood isn’t making you seem like a person that posts the truth and only the truth.

    It doesn’t prove anything when it’s fiction. Other than the contributor is wrong or a liar.

  • lunar

    I must challenge Alex Benjamine’s account of the events surrounding the disturbances on the Albertbridge road on Saturday afternoon last.

    I posted a comment earlier in this thread regarding my personal account of what i witnessed, as a passing motorist, on the afternoon in question.

    “I witnessed around 200 loyalists approaching the Albertbridge road from the Ravenhill road on saturday afternoon. This is nowhere near the orange hall, so i can only presume that these protesters were not part of the same group which Alex Benjamin is describing.

    The majority of this group were masked, some with scarves tied round their faces and others wearing balaclavas.

    Many were carrying sticks and a different assortment of cudgels.

    I’m amazed that these people can be described as protesters.It looked more like a mob to me.

    Trouble had not started at this point, so i was able to drive on past the area, prior to the trouble.”

    As i had posted above, many of those who i witnessed approaching the junction were masked and carried various cudgels.This is a fact which i witnessed myself.There were no disturbances at this point in time,so Alex’s recollections of the opening events are claerly confused.

    It is indicitave of a polarised society, when untruths are built on untruths to push for personal political advantage.

    It is very sad, indeed

  • VICTOR1

    Alex:

    So you expect us to believe these masked men appeared from nowhere after police decided to storm the Albertbridge road as far as Templemore Avenue, who were the police storming at Alex? May I suggest it was the said masked men who came along to peacefully protest, armed and prepared to wreak havoc!

    Alex, you were in the UUP offices and ventured out to observe, nothing wrong with that now, but how on earth did you observe what was happening at the Short Strand from the area of the Albertbridge Rd were the UUP offices are? They are nearly a half a mile from the corner of the Short Strand/Albertbridge, again like Sarah have you x-ray vision can you see through walls and around bends? Tell me Alex, were you at the corner of Short Strand /Albertbridge, if so why? What on earth had the Short Strand got to do with this peaceful protest? Surely if Unionists wanted to hold a peaceful protest they would have done so outside the UUP offices or at the corner of Templemore Avenue/Albertbridge Rd, don’t you think Alex?

    We aspire to remaining British, we don’t aspire to any Government in the same way you probably aspire to a United Ireland and not the incumbent government.

    A mute point, having said that I would like to think I could respect the Government of my country, and I wouldn’t mind becoming part of that government it would be one of my aspirations.

    The difficulty is that every parade to a ntionalist is contentious.

    Not true Alex let me quote you from the Orange Orders own site

    There are well over 3000 parades every year. Less than 1 per cent result in trouble of any kind.

    30 parades out of 3000 hardly constitutes EVERY parade, besides the Orange orders refusal to get involved in dialogue claiming they do not engage with terrorists hardly stands to reason, when they are involved with the North and West Belfast Parades and Cultural group a group consisting of UVF/UDA members, both of whose members are still involved in murder and violence, hardly consistent now is it?

    Let me also quote from Reg Empeys statement:

    The government knew on Friday that there was going to be serious violence coming from paramilitary elements. The police knew this also. Unfortunately those of us who attempted to defuse the situation surrounding the Whiterock parade got little or no encouragement or support in attempting to amend the Parades Commission’s determination.

    We see here, how Mr. Empey works, if we don’t get our way there WILL be violence, nowhere and at no time prior to the violence did Reg condemn the threat of violence instead he tried to use it as a bargaining tool! He states “It is no longer dialogue that matters, it is outcomes.” The violence happened because the Orange Order did not get the outcome they wished! Again Reg states “This now places absolute vetoes in the hands of those who object to parades.” So does Reg prefer an Orange veto? The parade commission is an independent body, set up by the British Government to try and bring some reason to the parades issue, I know Nationalists don’t agree with all the decisions they come too, but surely that would suggest the commission do have a neutral agenda.

    Lastly I did not intend to refer to decommissioning as a hurdle to minimize the issue, I was merely pointing out that time after time, the reasons Unionists gave to avoid implementing the full Good Friday Agreement changed from week to week. As far as I am concerned the IRA are going away and I am delighted that Republicans feel conditions are right to put away the gun I would like Loyalists to do likewise, and get involved in politics, as that is the only way out of the quagmire. I look forward also to Sarah’s considered reply!

  • Comrade Stalin

    MU:

    “Republicans have nobody left to negoitate with and have only themselves to blame. I doubt if it will worry you greatly.”

    I strongly disagree. Republicans have the British and Irish governments to negotiate with, and as we all know they are the ones who actually call the shots in this place. I’ve got no doubt whatsoever that unionist intransigence will ultimately lead to joint authority by the back door and will simply erode any sympathy unionists might have elsewhere in the UK.

    The problems caused by globalization are being experienced right across the UK and Europe, they are not restricted to the Protestant parts of Belfast. I don’t want to get into whataboutery or try to diminish the problems that exist in the blackspots of loyalist Belfast, but many of the largest unemployment blackspots – such as much of west of the Bann – are heavily nationalist. The hit in the textile industry has been heavily concentrated around places like Derry and Strabane.

    I’m completely against giving any kind of recognition to, or having talks with, (a) people who blame the police and withdraw their support for law and order; (b) people who are rioting and who won’t sit down and explain what their problem is beyond not getting their way on everything, and (c) people who refuse to talk to other elected representatives. I flatly reject the idea that violence is a newly-discovered weapon of an oppressed people forced out of politics – loyalists and unionists have been using rioting and violence to complain about “concessions” for decades.

    If Sinn Fein’s “equality agenda” is a sham, then the best way to expose it as such is to play their game, and enter all-party talks aimed at resolving all of these problems. It’s petty, selfish and unconstructive for people to sit back and say they’re not playing until they get some ambiguously-named concessions.

  • Ronaldo

    Well done to Alex Benjamin for having the balls to call it as he saw it on the day.

    As for the Sinn Fein/SDLP press office propagandists and guilty prods who have littered this blog with bulls**t and sarcastic comments, I’m glad to see Mr Benjamin’s factual eyewitness account made it into the Sunday Times yesterday free from editorial corruption.

    No doubt Liam Clarke (a man who knows a thing or two about incompetent policing) acted as facilitator and wanted to publish a factual eyewitness account from a highly respected UUP Spokesman with no axe to grind.

    respect.