HISTORICAL revisionism generally begins after the passage of many years from the events in question.
Letter writer John Gregg started his revising less than a month after the latest invasion of the Short Strand in East Belfast, as is evidenced by his letter “A Call for Violence” (July 13-19). No one, I repeat no one, has come up with a version of the events such as those of Mr. Gregg.
Everyone and, once again, I mean everyone with any interest in the situation -- and that includes community workers, politicians of all stripes, the police, the media and residents -- all agree on what happened at approximately 9 p.m. on the night in question.
Hundreds of individuals clad in semi-military clothing, including balaclavas and surgical gloves, invaded the Short Strand in the Lower Newtownards Road, Lower Albertbridge and Lower Ravenhill Road areas.
In the ensuing mayhem which lasted into the following night, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) reported that shots were fired by both sides.
According to the PSNI, the violence was the work of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and was provoked by UVF displeasure at Historical Enquiries Team (HET) activities and the closure of the Belvoir bar which was allegedly owned by the UVF.
Mr. Gregg seems to confirm that Loyalists are tired of seeing Nationalists getting government jobs while, as he puts it, “ . . . working class Prods get nothing.”
The best way to seek redress of these “grievances,” it seems, is to resort to brute force and attack a small, vastly outnumbered Nationalist community.
Don’t go to school, don’t become politically active to develop a political base like the current Lord Mayor of Belfast, 26-year-old Short Strand resident Niall O' Donnghaile has done.
No. Instead go on the attack and hope that the politicians will pay you off.
On 11th night, in Pitt Park across from St. Matthew’s Church, erect a large bonfire 40 or 50 feet high, and on the top of it place an Irish Tricolor.
Just beneath it, put a large photo poster of the lord mayor and next to that a larger poster inscribed “KAT” which variously means “Kill All Taigs” or “Kill Any Taig.” Then set the whole thing on fire.
At nearby Cluan Place, which was involved in serious disturbances in 2002, erect a bonfire and put a poster on it proclaiming “F*** the Short Strand and the Parades Commission.”
Don’t get involved in trying to revive the disintegrating Progressive Unionist Party so as to gain a political voice. That is definitely less exciting than rioting and setting fire to piles of pallets and tires while drinking copious tins of beer.
St. Matthew’s, the Short Strand parish church, is no stranger to attacks, and the one a few weeks back is just one of many over the years.
The original St. Matthew’s was dedicated on Sunday, March 13, 1831. By 1883, the number of parishioners had grown so large that the new current church was consecrated in June of that year.
The Irish News reported at the time that the building of the new church was partially made possible by generous contributions from Protestants. The church is of gothic style and measures 133 feet by 70 feet and has a tower and spire of 170 feet in height, topped by a large cross.
It has been attacked ever since, with major battles being fought in the 1920-1922 pogroms during which time 32 parishioners died as a result of the violence. The chapel grounds are famous as the site of the events of June 27, 1970 when the Battle of St. Matthew’s took place resulting in a total of at least 3 dead from both sides to the melee.
So the recent attacks are nothing more than a long, sad history of similar incursions on the Short Strand by its neighbors. Not much has changed.
Sectarianism is alive and well, and Mr. Gregg’s attempts to rework what recently happened for readers of the Irish Voice just isn’t so.
Stephen M. McCabe
Carle Place, New York