Sectarian attacks intended to ‘goad’ Protestant community?

Thankfully sectarian attacks have tailed off in recent years, even as attacks on the Orange Order have increased. They aren’t the only places or people being attacked, but they account for an increasing proportion. An arson attack on Ballyworkan Hall in Portadown brings the number of serious attacks in the area to since August. Meanwhile the Irish News is reporting another two in Co Antrim:

Three petrol bombs have failed to set fire to an Orange Hall in Co Antrim. They missed their intended target at Ballynadrentagh, on the Diamond Road near Crumlin, and were discovered by police shortly before 11pm yesterday. Detectives are treating the incident as attempted arson. Another hall belonging to the organisation suffered smoke damage and charring to the floor on the Glenavy Road in Lisburn, Co Antrim, at around 4.30am yesterday.

Meanwhile down the road from Portadown, near Banbridge, a ‘viable’ pipe bomb was found in the grounds of a GAA club. At one time ‘pipe bomb’ would nearly always have signalled the agency of Loyalist paramilitaries. But since the decommissioning of the IRA’s munitions, it is as likely to indicate Republican involvement, as the recent attack on a PSNI station in Strabane demonstrates.

Which means, I guess, that we have to add ‘smoke screen’ to the shortlist of possible motives for this crime.

It’s also worth quoting Portadown District Master Darryl Hewitt, who believes the real motivation is to provoke members of the local Protestant community into retaliation:

“There is clearly an orchestrated campaign by an organisation in this area. There is a plan to raise the ante and try and get tit for tat attacks, where GAA or Roman Catholic churches are burnt by people from my own community, and I would appeal for that not to happen. It does not help anyone. The police and the Northern Ireland office seem to be playing down the possibility of a deliberate campaign, but it seems obvious to everyone else.”

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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