19 May 2005 Edition

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Sectarianism again in Harryville

A number of cars belonging to Catholic parishioners attending Mass at Our Lady's Church in Harryville, Ballymena, County Antrim, were attacked by loyalists on Saturday 14 May.

The loyalist gang attacked the vehicles, which were in the chapel car park, with bricks and stones causing damage to some of the cars. An Phoblacht has been told that the loyalists were hanging about a nearby bonfire site before they carried out their attack.

Sinn Féin Assembly member Philip McGuigan said the attack was motivated by purely sectarian hatred. "It is just pure intimidation for these loyalists to build a bonfire next door to a Catholic Church and launch a sectarian attack on Massgoers," he said.

"Unionist political leaders in this area, including the local MP Ian Paisley, have to make their voices heard and unequivocally condemn the harassment and attacks on the local Catholic population in Ballymena."

The Sinn Féin politician was, however, unequivocal in his criticism of Harryville DUP councillor Martin Clarke, who refused to criticise the stone throwers, claiming he knew nothing about the attack. "This attack has been condemned by Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Ulster Unionist Party, yet the local DUP councillor maintains he knows nothing about it," said McGuigan.

Clarke told the media he would not condemn anyone, "as I don't know the true facts about what happened", adding that the bonfire has been on the same site "for years and is not intimidatory.

"The people who live around the church are decent people, they have never done anyone harm," he said.

Sinn Féin's newly elected Ballymena councillor, Monica Digney, expressing her disappointment at the failure of the DUP to condemn the attack. "For people who purport to be men of God, you would think the DUP could condemn an attack on vehicles belonging to parishioners celebrating Mass," she said.

This latest sectarian attack follows a spate of attacks on nationalists in the past number of weeks.

Two weeks ago a bus taking young Catholic football team back to Carnlough from Ballymena had a number of windows broken after loyalists attacked it.

During the 1990s, Our Lady's Church, which is located in the fiercely loyalist Harryvile area, was the scene of bitter sectarian protests after loyalists mounted pickets on the church.

For nearly two years, Massgoers were forced to run a gauntlet of sectarian abuse.

PSNI and loyalist protestors repeatedly clashed during the pickets, which ran up a £1 million security bill.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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