The Blanket

The Interface

Davy Carlin

As David Trimble took the 'impartial' decision as the leading elected representative of the peoples of N. Ireland to do his walk-about in Cluan Place I and several other trade union activists co-incidentally took up the invite to visit Clandeboye Drive on the same day. We spent approximately two and a half hours there on which I shall give an objective account of those hours 4.30pm-7pm. The last time I was in the Short Strand was in answer to the call for an anti-sectarianism rally in which we witnessed both a person being shot and the rally attacked. Yet on that evening's televised news coverage I watched media revisionism in full flow in which the portrayal of the ' two warring tribes' were at it again. Yet my perception is that there was a deliberate attempt by some to portray a non-reality that evening. Yet again the media scrum accompanying Trimble's visit into Cluan Place and his unrepresentative approach on that day said nothing for the reality on the ground.

We arrived unannounced to the Short Strand at approximately 4.30pm. The streets were all but deserted, apart from a few kids playing. It seemed quite normal from the onset until we went further into the estate. My first impressions could only be described as seeing severe destruction and devastation. Homes were boarded up, screens smashed, roofs broken up in pieces all coupled with a certain stench and the visual impacts of paint, petrol, acid and blasts bombs. On seeing the material damage inflicted I wondered of the deep psychological damage on not only individuals but on the community as a whole, which would also no doubt be reflected within the residents of Cluan Place. Yet despite such destruction I did see a community within the Clandeboye area attempting to shelter the kids and the vulnerable from the worst with small initiatives such as painting the boards which protect their windows and doors with flowers, plants etc - in effect trying to provide some normality in a 'not normal situation'.

Residents told us of their concerns and the unrelenting attacks against a backdrop in many cases of media complacency or worse. 4.52pm: bottles and bricks come over the interface into Clandeboye Drive hitting windows, roofs and landing in the still largely deserted streets. We stood in hallways for shelter still talking to residents as this continued expecting the arrival of the PSNI especially as David Trimble was about! We ventured through people's homes and into their back yards which face directly onto the interface wall. Clearly visible were houses boarded up, roofs wrecked, oil tanks covered as petrol bombs had been targeted against them - all situated on ground littered with debris

5.47: over now come paint bombs narrowly missing a colleague as we again survey the area. A resident invites me into his home to shelter me from the now home made bombs coming into Clandeboye Drive (where are those PSNI?) A resident arrived at the door of the house with some of my colleagues to show us a video of the attacks. Although such videos have been given to the press they have not made there way on to the screens. The video showed a continuous barrage of items coming over the wall into Claneboye Drive and, surprisingly, a hose also being used to soak rooftops. The reasoning for this was that some of the tiles on the roofs in Clandeboye were in the process of being repaired and by soaking the roofs the attackers were making such repairs difficult to carry out. The man's kids then proudly showed us some of their golf ball collection that had been used to attack their home. I understood the pride they felt in showing us their collection as at a similar age I had collected plastic and rubber bullets: a different era but, unfortunately, ever similar worlds.

6.16: Now, outside bricks and bottles sporadically but increasingly come down. There are more people in the street. Yet they are mainly the elderly residents and the curious kids. Some of my colleagues again venture along the interface as others continue to talk to the residents. A loud bang occurs. Had those PSNI arrived? No it was now fireworks raining into the streets coming again from over the wall. Again residents invited us into their homes. As I talked to an elderly lady in her home, cracking noises came from the back of her house. We went and looked out of her back window and saw fire works in her back path. Then as I looked up at the interface wall, from Cluan Place came a sustained barrage at the houses. Looking out of the bullet proof windows amongst the items I seen A hammer head which could only have been thrown by grown men.

The elderly lady at her wits end and in tears asks, 'why do we have to live like this, like caged animals? Why is this being allowed to happen? Does no one care'? She tells how she has nothing against Protestant people: 'in fact the Short Strand have many mixed marriages'. The problem lays in the ongoing and organized attacks on a daily basis on her community. As I left her home I pondered on the fact that this was the year 2002 and such was happening in our society, yet so little is actually done to stop it. This is no coincidence as even large sections of the media are attempting to make 'it a wee world within a world ' attempting to isolate the problem by portraying it as 'it's just them at it again'. Yet the material and psychological destruction within both 'communities' gives them not a process of peace but a process of division.

6.53: Again on the street with bottles and bricks still coming into the street. I notice sliced hose pipes in different parts of the street and inquired as to why. I was told that the residents use the pipes to put out petrol bombs as at times the PSNI prevent the fire engines coming in. The PSNI also slashed the hoses.

7.01: The barrage is intensifying with again fireworks coming over. Two and a half hours after our arrival, home made bombs, hammer heads, fireworks, bricks, bottles ar stillcoming over the wall into the estate; no sign of it being stopped and no sign of those PSNI.

We had seen enough. When I got home I watched the media scrum around David Trimble. Yet as I observed him doing the hundred yards dash back to Cluan Place followed by the press scrum, in response to reports of attacks on Cluan, and as I watched him hold that golf ball in his hand, I knew that it had begun to move on from witnessed revisionism to perceived political reasoning and selfish interests. Although one can not practically equate that golf ball with the attacks we witnessed within Clandeboye on the same day, the revisionism had in fact been accomplished through omission. After all it would be easier to go with the flow and follow the 'two tribes' theory and reinforce perception as reality rather than being prepared to face up to the reality. As the elections draw closer party 'traditional' politics and rhetoric will intensify leaving less space for resolutions as the perceived political and practical sectarianism between parties hardens in the fight for votes. The interface areas can be a battle field for votes but it shouldn't be a battlefield with or of peoples lives.





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I was determined to achieve the total freedom that our history lessons taught us we were entitled to, no matter what the sacrifice.
- Rosa Parks

Index: Current Articles

8 September 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


The BNP, Anti-Fascism and the Libertarian Dilemma
Mark Hayes


Out of the Ashes of Armed Struggle Arose the Stormontistas And They Fought...Ardoyne Youth

Anthony McIntyre


Republicanism in the Age of Empire
Michael Youlton


The Interface
Davy Carlin


Colombia Deteriorates Daily
Sean Smyth


The Letters Page has been updated.


5 September 2002


Why Doesn't Britain Leave
Sandy Boyer


Che Guevara

Anthony McIntyre


Perfecting the Violence of Curfew
Sam Bahour


Understanding Culture
Billy Mitchell


Brian Mór


Brian Mór


Brian Mór




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