Monday, June 06, 2005

Priest slams Collins’ claim

Ciarán Barnes:

A Belfast priest has accused a prominent former British army commander of putting the lives of his parishioners in danger.

Ardoyne priest Fr Aidan Troy was speaking after Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins had claimed in his new book, Rules of Engagement, that community representatives in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast were “Provisional IRA to a man”.

Colonel Collins, who commanded British troops during the Iraq war in 2003, made his comments in reference to the 2001 Holy Cross dispute.

Hundreds of loyalists from the Protestant Glenbryn estate protested for six weeks along the Catholic primary pupils’ route to school, shouting sectarian abuse at the girls and their parents.

Loyalist paramilitaries also threw a blast bomb and other missiles at the pupils.

During every day of the protest, Fr Troy accompanied the children, aged between five and 11, on their walk to and from school. The dispute ended after a series of meetings between Ardoyne community representatives and loyalist leaders.

Fr Troy told Daily Ireland yesterday the soldier’s comments were “highly dangerous”.

He said: “If I made comments like that about the protesters from Glenbryn, I would have to take responsibility if something happened to them.

“Throughout the Holy Cross dispute, I was careful not to label people.

“The situation wasn’t about politics or paramilitarism. It was about the rights of children to attend school. Anyone who misses that point has no understanding of Holy Cross.”

Martin Morgan, a former Belfast mayor and SDLP councillor for the Ardoyne area at the time of the Holy Cross protests, said of Colonel Collins’ comments: “I am very angry but not surprised. A perception exists among people like Colonel Collins that anyone who stands up and demands civil rights for nationalists is in the IRA.

“But how dare he insinuate that so publicly about the people of Ardoyne.”

Although Colonel Collins is critical of Ardoyne community workers, he does pay tribute to Fr Troy’s ability to break through institutional sectarianism.

He also refers to how members of the British army sent into Ardoyne at the time had connections to loyalist paramilitary organisations Colonel Collins left the British army last year. His departure was marred by claims that his units had mistreated Iraqi prisoners. The soldier was later cleared of allegations of war crimes. Colonel Collins was unavailable for comment yesterday.

His book was published this week. Another claim in it is that a rifle found by his troops during an operation in Africa had been used by British soldiers in Derry on Bloody Sunday. He said the weapon had been declared destroyed when the Saville inquiry asked where it was.

Why should anyone be surprised that a British soldier would take the side of the British colonists in the north of Ireland? Both the British Army and the British loyalists want to see a continuation of British colonialism in the Six Counties which Collins shows by his statements.


Post a Comment

<< Home