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New RUC offensive in Ardoyne
The battle in Ardoyne on the night of the 12th was immediately presented by the state forces as an attempt by the Provos to return to conflict with the RUC. Nothing could be further from the truth. The humiliation of having to defuse local resistance to loyalist and RUC blockades of a local school in the previous fortnight was proof enough of that.
The Provo account is accurate enough. They attempted to lead a peaceful protest and were attacked by the RUC, this attack then escalated into a full-scale offensive. This is typical of the normal sectarian behaviour by the RUC, who, in contrast to the widespread deployment of the new plastic bullets in Ardoyne, on the same day allowed an Orange protest in Derry to paralyse the city for most of the day and looked on helplessly when opposing UDA and UVF orange gangs fought pitched battles in the centre of Belfast.
One of the central elements of the Patton report which the republicans still cling to is the promise that the RUC will become 50% Catholic (in the sweet by and by). A recent recruitment drive, when things were going well and the RUC were free to define adventurers from around the world as “Catholic” gave a figure of over 30% applications. Any sustained conflict would quickly erode even this shortfall and remove the pretence that these uniformed gangsters would be reformed by the back door.
On this occasion the RUC ran into very stiff resistance, led by leading local republicans. The reasons for this are twofold.
One is that the area had already been under sustained sectarian attack and that defence preparations had of course been made. The other may prove more problematic for the republican leadership in that it represents the burning resentment felt by the local people when they had to lead the humiliating trek with their children over fields to the back door of the primary school.
What happens when supporters of the Good Friday agreement, supporters of the republican leadership, find that the bottom line is that they are still second class citizens in an occupied country?