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Catholic Crushed, Scores Wounded in Riots against Police, Army

July 14, 1996

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Roman Catholics furious over Protestant marches through their neighborhood rioted from dusk to dawn Saturday, in bloody confrontations with police and troops that killed one person and injured dozens.

An army jeep crushed a Catholic man, making him the first person to die in a week of Protestant-Catholic violence. The attacks escalated further Sunday with the bombing of a rural hotel _ the first bombing in Northern Ireland since a 1994 IRA cease-fire.

Catholics have rioted for three nights in a row, following four nights of rioting by pro-British Protestants angry that police tried to block one of their annual marches commemorating 17th-century battle victories over Irish Catholics.

Saturday’s chaos was at its worst in Londonderry, Northern Ireland’s second-largest city. Londonderry senior police commander Tom Craig appealed for calm, calling the uprising ``madness.″

``The worst excesses of both communities have been seen in all their shame throughout the world,″ Craig said.

At least 2,000 Catholics hurled rocks, bricks and gasoline bombs at police overnight Friday through Saturday in Londonderry, police said. The Catholic Bogside district was littered with the smoking wrecks of torched cars.

The Irish government was scathing in its criticism of the British response to Protestant rioting, straining relations between the two at a time when they are jointly overseeing multiparty peace talks. Leaders of the IRA-allied Sinn Fein party alleged that police have been far quicker to fire at rioting Catholics than they were Protestants.

More than 230 people _ police and civilians _ have been wounded since rioting began July 7.

Dermot McShane, 35, was run over by an army jeep early Saturday and died later at Altnagelvin hospital in Londonderry, 70 miles northwest of Belfast.

The jeep rammed a trash bin that rioters hid behind while lobbing gasoline bombs, said Craig, the assistant chief constable.

Craig said one of his officers tried to offer McShane first aid but another rioter slashed the officer’s face with a broken bottle. The gash required 19 stitches, he said.

An estimated 10,000 people later attended a vigil in honor of the dead man, marching with black flags. Martin McGuinness, Londonderry’s leading representative from the IRA-allied Sinn Fein party, stood on the hood of a car to tell the crowd that the killing was ``unadulterated murder.″

``Stay united. Stay calm. Stay dignified. Stay peaceful, and let this powerful message resound around the world,″ McGuinness urged.

The IRA issued a statement appealing for an end to the rioting, urging Catholics ``to desist from actions which add to the litany of hardships piled on top of our beleaguered communities.″

But in north Belfast, three masked men identifying themselves as IRA members patrolled a Catholic district briefly before slipping back into the shadows. They were carrying Kalashnikov rifles and walkie-talkies.

The Catholic rioting has continued each night in Belfast, with young people tossing gasoline bombs at police-army barracks and across a so-called ``peace line″ separating Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods.

Police returned gunmen’s fire at one point, and at another fired a submachine gun in the air to disperse a mob throwing firebombs.

Shortly after midnight Saturday, a bomb set fire to the Killyhevlin Hotel near Enniskillen, 80 miles southwest of Belfast. A caller warned of the bombing about half-hour before, and there were no serious injuries. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

It was a shift Thursday in police tactics that quelled Protestant rioting but brought furious Catholics into the streets. Caving in to a swelling mob of Protestants, police restrained Catholic residents of Portadown, 25 miles southwest of Belfast, to allow marches by the Orange Order, the province’s dominant Protestant fraternal group, through their neighborhood.

Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring said Catholics’ confidence in the British government and police ``is probably at an all-time low ... because they see the police and the British government giving way to mob rule.″

The Social Democratic and Labor Party, Sinn Fein’s larger, moderate rival for Catholic votes, announced Saturday it was withdrawing from a forum in Belfast intended to complement the peace negotiations.

Sinn Fein is barred from the actual peace talks, scheduled to resume Tuesday in Belfast, because in February the Irish Republican Army resumed using violence in its campaign against British rule.

Police said Saturday they have fired more than 2,000 plastic bullets in the past two days. That compares with about 650 fired during four nights of wider rioting by Protestants that ended Thursday.

IRA supporters said many of the injured Catholics in Londonderry were ferried across the nearby border to sympathetic doctors in the Irish Republic. Those hospitalized in Northern Ireland risk arrest for rioting.

It’s standard practice in Londonderry, where Northern Ireland’s modern ``troubles″ began in August 1969 with street clashes similar to this week’s.

Then, as now, they were triggered by a Protestant march.

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