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8 May 2003 Edition

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Unionist thugs target family of murdered teen

BY áINE Ní BHRIAIN

Unionist paramilitaries have been targeting the family of murdered teenager Ciaran Cummings in Antrim.

Ciaran's heartbroken mother, Kathleen Cummings, has pleaded for her family to be left in peace after a gang of loyalists attacked their home late on the evening of Friday 2 May. A group of masked men appeared outside the house armed with baseball bats around 12.20am and attempted to break down the front door.

"Emma woke us up screaming, 'daddy, daddy, they are banging on our door'," said a still shaken Kathleen. "She was terrified. We all were. Thankfully no one was hurt."

The attack on the family's Greystone home is the second in less than six months. The double-glazed kitchen windows were smashed in the incident and the family car was also badly damaged. When they had finished at the Cummings house, the gang went on to break the windows of at least one other home before disappearing back into the unionist Ballycraigy estate.

"I just want to know why - why can't they leave us alone?" asked a distraught Kathleen. "They are trying to drive us out. They can't do anything else on us, they have already murdered our child."

Kathleen's son, 19-year-old Ciaran, was gunned down nearly two years ago - on 4 July 2001. He was waiting for a lift to work near the Greystone Road roundabout when he was shot in the back at close range. He was then shot in the head as he lay injured on the ground. He died at the scene.

Although the killing was claimed by the Red Hand Defenders - a cover name for the UDA - later reports suggest that the UVF were responsible. In spite of several arrests, no one has yet been charged with Ciaran's killing.

A memorial erected at the spot where he died had to be removed after it was repeatedly vandalised. "It's a disgrace," said a local resident. "Nothing has been allowed to remain untouched. They'll even kick the flowers about."

On several occassions, the Cummings family have been verbally taunted and insulted by the very people suspected of having killed Ciaran, and graffiti has appeared in the area, with the words, "Ciaran Cummings - Ha ha" painted on fences and walls.

The Cummings car has also been targeted, and the family has even been advised by the PSNI to insure Ciaran's headstone against further damage.

Sinn Féin's Martin Meehan said this latest attack has only added to the grief and suffering of the Cummings family.

"We have been calling for a civic forum to eradicated sectarianism," says Meehan. "The only way to do that is for both communities to enter into dialogue."

There has been a continuous campaign of sectarian attacks and intimidation in Antrim for over a year now. Incidents range from verbal confrontations to physical violence to petrol and pipe bomb attacks on homes, businesses and vehicles.

Lately, adult unionist paramilitaries have been actively threatening and/or attacking young nationalists throughout the town, and sectarian attacks on Catholic families in the Greystone estate have also increased.

Meanwhile, Kathleen Cummings says she doesn't know whether the family will be forced to move or not. "My three kids were born and reared here," she said. "We have been here for 25 years. We feel helpless."

And to the unionist thugs behind the campaign of endless intimidation, she had this to say: "You've killed my son. Now please let us live in peace."

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