5/27/2008

Attacks must stop

I was disgusted to learn that Altnaveigh Orange Hall was attacked at the weekend on the outskirts of Newry.


All these thugs and scumbags have done is to further isolate and alienate a minority Protestant community.

Let's leave aside our views of the Orange Order for a second; my repulsion at the OO is well known and documented.

For your average Joe Soap Protestant in that area this is not an attack on the Orange Order or an attack on bigotry, it's an attack on them and their kin.

Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy has expressed condemnation after an attack.

"I would condemn this attack wholeheartedly and without reservation. All such attacks are wrong and should stop immediately"

"I was informed of the attack on the Hall by members of the local Altnaveigh Lodge. They also expressed a concern that as the Hall had been left unsecured, there was a fear amongst Lodge members that those who did this would come back and try to burn the Hall."

"I passed those concerns onto community activists who lived in the locality and I am aware that they visited the Hall during the course of Saturday evening and night to help in a most practical way to ensure that no further vandalism would be carried out on this occasion."

"Those facts for themselves clearly indicate that the vast majority of the local community are angered and sickened by this incident".

What makes this all the worse, in my eyes anyway, is that this is not the first attack on the hall.

During the Tan War South Armagh became fertile killing ground with reprisal and counter reprisal killings between the IRA and the B-Specials. Frank Aiken, one time Republican and long time traitor, led the 4th Northern Brigade (A brigade which my paternal great-grandfather was a member of).

In June 1921, four Catholics were taken from their homes at Altnaveigh near Bessbrook, and shot dead on the roadside. Amid ambushes on Special patrols by large IRA units, Frank Aiken's men, as part of the overall burning campaign being carried out against Unionist property throughout May and June 1922, burned the homes and farms of Orange Order members in County Armagh.

One date that stands out in the memory of Protestants is the 17th of June, 1922, the date of what is termed the 'Altnaveigh Massacre', when six Protestants and a B-Special were shot and killed, as the IRA, around 50 strong, raided selected Protestant homes killings residents and burning their houses.

The killings were the result of four burnings, while five further homes were burned without fatalities.

As a Socialist Republican this period and these actions do not sit well with me, they go against everything I believe in.

While we can't change the past we can shape the future and I believe we all have a duty to see that these sick attacks stop.

Deputy Mayor of Newry and Mourne, Councillor Charlie Casey, put it best when he said that there was no such place for attacks on Orange Halls, Community Halls, local Schools, Sports Clubs and places of worship.

"Those engaged in these types of activities have nothing to offer our communities or society in general. Most of us view these attacks as attacks on us all not just on one or other specific tradition or group."

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