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18 March 2004 Edition

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Larne bombing the work of the UVF

Sinn Féin spokesperson on policing Gerry Kelly has accused the British Government of being obsessed with so-called republican violence while ignoring the fact that unionist paramilitaries have carried out 183 sectarian attacks against the nationalist community in the past year.

Kelly was commenting on figures released by NIO Security Minister Jane Kennedy, which attributed to loyalists seven killings, 135 shootings and 41 bombings in the 12 months to January this year.

Kelly used the NIO figures to rubbish PSNI boss Hugh Orde's claims that republican and loyalist violence was at the same level.

Kelly said the figures were a reminder of where the "violent threat" to the peace process came from, despite the continual focus on alleged republican activity.

"All these unionist paramilitary attacks have passed with little comment from either unionist party or indeed the British Government. Indeed we have not had special review meetings to discuss these sectarian attacks nor have we had determinations or commentary from Hugh Orde or the Independent Monitoring Commission," said Kelly.

Kelly added that people within the nationalist and republican community are sick of the hypocrisy of unionist politicians and the British Government. "They are frustrated at the obvious toleration of what is seen as an acceptable level of unionist violence against the Catholic community while at the same time threatening the process over allegations from securocrats over IRA activity."

LARNE

Kelly's remarks came within hours of the UVF bombing a Catholic family in Larne County Antrim and a sectarian attack on a schoolboy in Derry.

In the Larne attack, the family escaped serious injury or possible death when the loyalist gang lobbed a pipe bomb through the front window of their Bryan Street home at around 12.30am on Thursday 11 March.

The couple, who have lived in the area for 20 years, and their 16-year-old son, were asleep upstairs when the primed device came through the downstairs window and landed on the living room floor. Luckily, it failed to explode.

Neighbours were evacuated during the clear up operation and moved to a YMCA hall until they area was declared safe.

DERRY

A 13-year-old Derry boy was treated for cuts and bruises at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry after he was targeted by a sectarian gang in the Lisnagelvin shopping centre in the Waterside area of the city.

The boy was with his mother on Wednesday night 10 March when he was set upon by three loyalists, who had followed them throughout their shopping trip making sectarian and anti-Catholic remarks towards the boy.

Just moments before the loyalists struck, they told the school boy, 'you look like a fenian'. They beat him about the head before the attack was stopped by security personnel from the shopping centre.

Since news of the attack was made known, other families have come forward to say that similar attacks have been carried out in the shopping centre in recent weeks.

Sinn Féin Councillor Lynn Fleming urged Catholics to be aware that they could be targeted by loyalist thugs in the shopping centre. She added that there should be no 'no-go' areas for citizens anywhere in the North and called on those with responsibility within the unionist community to ensure that Catholics could where they wanted when they wanted without fear of attack.

BALLYCLARE

A sectarian gang is also thought to have been responsible for an arson attack on the home of a priest near Ballyclare in County Antrim.

Father Eugene O'Hagan escaped injury in the attack, which was carried out at 2am on Saturday morning 13 March when the arsonists pushed wheelie bins full of rubbish against the back of the chapel and set them alight.

Fr O'Hagan said something woke him out of his sleep so he got up to check the house and discovered the kitchen engulfed in flames.

The building suffered severe scorch damage in the blaze and three stained glass windows were also damaged in the attack.

The attack was well planned, as the arsonists shimmied up the wall of the chapel and adjusted the CCTV cameras, installed to monitor the church and grounds as a result of previous attacks.

Said Fr O'Hagan: "This is a sinister development. We have had stones and bottles thrown at the church in the past, but this is quite obviously more serious, as it appears to have been organised."

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