25 March 2004 Edition

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Upsurge in unionist violence on St Patrick's Day

Sinn Féin Councillor Margaret McClenaghan fears more sectarian trouble in Ardoyne

Sinn Féin Councillor Margaret McClenaghan fears more sectarian trouble in Ardoyne

Unionist paramilitary violence, already on the increase this year, saw an intense surge of attacks throughout the St Patrick's Day holiday with pipe bombs being used against Catholic and nationalist targets across the Six Counties.

A number of the deadly devices were planted in Limavady, County Derry, Carrickmannon near Ballygowan in County Down and in Belfast as loyalists attempted to disrupt St Patricks Day celebrations.

Also in Belfast, five Catholics homes in Ardoyne, North Belfast were attacked by a loyalist mob using paint bombs and other missiles.

Limavady

The UVF are believed to have left the pipe-bomb attack discovered at a house in Shanreagh Park in Limavady at around 8.20am on Wednesday 17 March.

The device was left in the garden of the house, which is on the route of the annual Catholic Scout and Guide St Patrick's Day Church parade. It has since emerged, however, that the loyalists may have been targeting a relative of the householder, who is due to give evidence against UVF leader Mark Haddock.

Haddock and a number of other men are charged with the attempted murder of bouncer Trevor Gowdy, who is on a witness protection scheme.

Ballygowan

More than 100 parishioners attending Mass at St Joseph's Church in Carrickmannon near Ballygowan County Down were evacuated after Parish priest Anthony McHugh discovered a bomb at the side door of the church on St Patrick's Day.

Fr McHugh said he was in no doubt the bomb was designed to disrupt the St Patrick's Day Mass.

"I had arrived at the church at around 9.30am to prepare for Mass when I discovered the device at the side door," he said. "It was a long piece of welded tubing with wires coming out of the top of it."

Fr McHugh contacted the PSNI and informed parishioners inside the church before cutting short the Mass.

In 2002, St Joseph's was badly damaged when unionist paramilitaries set fire to the front of the building and in the mid 1990s the church also had to be refurbished after a sectarian attack by loyalists.

South Belfast

On St Patrick's night, unionist paramilitaries left a car bomb in South Belfast close to the Menagerie Bar, where former Pogues singer Shane MacGowan had been due to play after he appeared at the St Patrick's Day carnival outside Belfast's City Hall.

Several houses close to the scene were evacuated during the alert, which lasted several hours.

The device, believed to contain a number of pipe bombs taped together, was defused by British Army bomb experts in two controlled explosions.

Ardoyne

In the early hours of Friday 19 March, members of a UDA gang launched attacks on a row of 12 Catholic homes on the Ardoyne Road, five of which sustained considerable damage when they were struck with paint bombs.

Eyewitnesses said they saw about ten men leaving loyalist Twaddell Avenue and attacking the Catholic homes on the Ardoyne Road before running off towards the Glenbyrn area.

A number of houses had paint bombs thrown at them while others were damaged with batteries, bottles and other missiles.

Hours earlier, six windows in the home of a 70-year-old pensioner on the nearby Crumlin Road were smashed.

Sinn Féin Councillor Margaret McClenaghan told An Phoblacht she fears there may be more sectarian trouble in the area.

"There have been a number of incidents over the last month and people are fearful that the UDA is beginning a concerted campaign of sectarian attacks," she said.

McClenaghan said the PSNI "arrived on the scene late and told residents they would keep patrols in the area because of goings on in the Glenbryn area. Half an hour later they left the area leaving these people vulnerable to further attack."

Ligoniel

A Ligoniel mother of three, whose husband was shot dead outside his house on the Ligoniel Road in the 1990s, has revealed that she has received a death threat from unionist paramilitaries.

The woman said hours after the PSNI informed her of the threat she discovered that her car had been vandalised.

The woman blamed loyalists from the bottom of the Ligoniel Road.

Meanwhile, a Catholic taxi driver whose car was pelted with bricks while he was stopped at traffic lights at the junction of the Upper Crumlin Road and the Ligoniel Road last week, has hit out at the loyalists involved.

"This is not the first time", said cabbie John Kelly. "Taxis are constantly attacked by loyalists at this junction. It is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or even killed.

"You have to stop at the lights and it is then loyalists attack you with bricks and other missiles. It has to stop before someone is killed."


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