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Peter Hadden with Manus Maguire

A week of shattered hopes

(19 July 1996)

From Militant, [UK], 19th July 1996.
Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.

In recent years there has always been a large police presence on the Ormeau Road on 12 July to block the Lower Ormeau residents into their streets while the march goes past. But by previous standards this year’s operation was absolutely massive the railway bridge was blocked, the Ormeau bridge was blocked and screened off, Dromara Street was screened off, every street running onto the road, even those in the student area, was blocked. If you lived in Lower Ormeau you required identification to get in.

The news showed footage of one man climbing over the top of a Land Rover which was parked against his front door so that he could go to the shop and buy a pint of milk. He, at least, had access, however awkward, to his house.

Another man was three streets away from his house when the RUC moved in. He was in Lower Ormeau – inside the ring of steel – but he was refused entrance to his own street because he had no ID. His wife was in another part of town and she, along with others, was not allowed out. Their children were left in the house on their own and neither of them were allowed to return home to check on them – in the end an SDLP councillor was allowed through to see that the kids were alright.

When the Orange march passed through the Lower Ormeau residents gathered at the RUC barricades to conduct a noisy but peaceful protest. They remained blocked in for a further three or four unnecessary hours before the police and army moved out.

The effect of this operation on the attitudes of the residents was immense. Over the next two nights nine or ten cars were burnt out and petrol bombs were thrown at the police in the area.

The worst effects were among teenagers. These are the people who benefited most from the ceasefire – the only peace they have ever known. They were able to go out of their own area and meet different people and develop their own political ideas without the backdrop of bombs and shootings forcing them into more hard-line attitudes.

They had developed a certain confidence that although their parents may have been second-class citizens because they were Catholic they would not be. The events of the last week have shattered those hopes for the teenagers in Lower Ormeau.

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