Terrified families from East Timor flee as loyalists attack nationalist homes in Portadown in marching season clashes
Staff and agencies
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 16 July 2011 15.50 BST
Immigrant families from East Timor fled a Catholic area of Northern Ireland on Friday night when loyalist rioters tried to attack nationalist homes, a Sinn Fein councillor said today.
“Around 100 loyalists attacked police who prevented them attacking nationalist homes,” said John O’Dowd, who is a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The families from East Timor packed their bags and ran from their homes in Portadown, Co Armagh on Friday night, when the area was engulfed in violence, he said.
“They packed their bags, so distressed were they at the violence. Their neighbours tried to reassure them that they would be safe in their homes but they left,” he told Reuters.
A significant number of families from East Timor have settled in the Northern Irish town, where they work in the food packing industry alongside many Poles and Portuguese.
For several hours, police were attacked by people armed with petrol bombs, bricks, bottles, fireworks and other missiles in the latest violence surrounding the high point of the loyalist marching season.
The police fired around 20 plastic bullets and arrested three people. They confirmed that loyalists provoked the violence when a planned peaceful protest was hijacked by a violent minority.
The Mayor of the local Craigavon council, Democratic Unionist Alan Carson, condemned the violence.
“This does not do anyone any good. People have a right to live peacefully and feel safe in their own homes. The violence we saw last night is something we assigned to the history books,” he said.
In recent days, nearly 50 police have been wounded and dozens have been arrested during violence in both loyalist and republican areas surrounding the annual 12 July parades.
More than 500 parades were held on Tuesday across Northern Ireland, the high point of the Orange Order marching season celebrating the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The majority passed off peacefully but they sparked outbreaks of street violence.