Catholic Churches Torched in Ulster
Sieff, Martin, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Ten Catholic churches in Northern Ireland were attacked and three burned down Wednesday night, raising the specter of a long, hot summer of sectarian violence and riots less than six weeks after the people of Ulster approved a U.S.-backed peace deal.
"It is appalling that people have returned to this type of activity at a time when new political horizons are emerging," said Adam Ingram, Britain's minister responsible for security and victims in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland police said the renegade Loyalist Volunteer Force may have been behind the flurry of arson attacks across the troubled, British-ruled province of 900,000 Protestants and 600,000 Catholics.
Police said the attacks in three counties - Antrim, Down and Tyrone - were "obviously orchestrated" and suspected "they may be the work of the LVF," a Protestant paramilitary splinter group.
Although small in numbers, the LVF, formed in 1996, has been responsible for a series of murders. It declared a cease-fire after the April 10 peace agreement was signed but remains implacably opposed to it.
It is not alone. About 90 percent of Northern Ireland's Catholic nationalists voted for the new political system, negotiated by President Clinton's handpicked envoy, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell. But only a little more than half the majority Protestants voted yes.
The 80,000-strong Orange Order - the 190-year-old patriotic movement that has always dominated Protestant unionist political affairs in the province - angrily rejected the deal and is spearheading resistance to it.
The order, which contains more than 12 percent of all the adult Protestants in Northern Ireland, is plotting a campaign of civil disobedience across the province to smash the April peace agreement and the new assembly that was elected last month from it.
They plan to launch surprise parades and block roadways across Northern Ireland throughout the summer in an effort to stretch police reserves, Ulster unionist sources said.
Northern Irish security sources said that, if implemented, such tactics would inevitably lead to violent confrontations with the 13,000-strong police force and with the 19,000 British troops based there.
The order remains determined to march through Catholic areas of the town of Portadown Sunday, defying a ban on that route by a parades commission set up by Britain's secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Marjorie "Mo" Mowlam. …