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8 January 1997 Edition

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Nationalists pay the price

Laura Friel reports on a New Year when nationalists once again paid the price of a Unionist refusal to countenance change

North Belfast grieves again

Overwhelmed with grief, Mary Treanor collapsed during the funeral of her youngest son, Edmund. The elderly widow was supported by relatives and friends as the funeral cortege left St Therese's Church, North Belfast on the two-mile journey to Carnmoney Cemetery. The 31-year-old Catholic died shortly before midnight on New Year's Eve, shot by loyalist gunmen during a sectarian attack on a North Belfast bar.

The fatally wounded man was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital were he died within hours of the shooting. Edmund Treanor was the ninth Catholic murdered in a sectarian attack by loyalists in the last eighteen months. The deaths occurred against the backdrop of escalating loyalist violence, from mob intimidation and petrol bombings to gun attacks against nationalist communities throughout the North.

The Clifton Tavern was packed with New Year revellers when loyalist gunmen launched their murderous attack shortly after 9pm. As with the attack on Glengannon Hotel in Tyrone, just four days earlier, loyalists planned mass sectarian slaughter in the style of Greysteel and Loughinisland.

In Tyrone the gunmen were thwarted by the brave action of Seamus Dillon and his companions who barred the killers' entrance to the club. In Belfast, the gunmen entered the hallway of the Tavern, spraying the premises with automatic gunfire. Six people were seriously injured, one fatally. One of the injured remains in a critical condition with a bullet lodged close to his heart.

The Vauxhall Senator car used by the killers was hijacked less than half a mile from the scene of the shooting in the Lower Shankill. After the attack the vehicle was abandoned in Beechnut Street, off the Oldpark Road. To and from the Tavern, the gunmen's stolen car must have passed through some of the North's most closely monitored streets. Crown force surveillance equipment festoons a sixty foot watchtower at the corner of the Oldpark Road, surveillance cameras remain on the Crumlin Road Jail Sangar along the Cliftonville Road, while Cliftonpark Avenue is dominated by the largest British army barracks in Belfast, Girdwood. Despite mass surveillance and intense Crown force activity around the Cliftonville Road just half an hour before the attack, no attempt was made to intercept the getaway car.

North Belfast Sinn Fein Councillor Mick Conlon was walking nearby when he heard gunfire. ``As I turned the corner I heard people screaming and shouting outside the Tavern.'' The scene was one of blood, broken glass and bullet holes ripping through interior walls. Frantic inquires by neighbours and relatives of people in the bar were met with aggression by the RUC. ``People were being physically thrown aside,'' says Mick, ``and told to `fuck off' by the RUC as they pleaded for information about the injured.''

Brave action prevented massacre

Shortly before 11pm on the night of 27 December, two masked loyalist gunmen in a red Vauxhall Nova drove into the car park of the Glengannon Hotel on the Ballygawley Road, Dungannon. In the hotel a teenage disco, attended by several hundred young Catholics was in full swing. 45-year-old Seamus Dillon, employed as a doorman at the hotel was fatally wounded as he and two colleagues confronted the gunmen. Eighteen shots were fired, injuring four, including a 14-year-old boy shot when a bullet smashed through a window of the function room where he was collecting glasses. Seamus Dillon died shortly after arriving at South Tyrone Hospital. A second victim remains seriously ill.

Sinn Fein's Mid Ulster MP Martin McGuinness has called on the RUC to explain what information they had in their possession which prompted them to telephone taxi firms and pubs in Tyrone warning of a possible attack just four hours before the attack on the Glengannon Hotel. Despite it being the location of a previous loyalist attack, the management of the hotel were not warned. A 61-year-old Catholic taxi driver was abducted outside the Glengannon and murdered by loyalists in 1990.

Meanwhile in a statement Roger Dillon, brother of Seamus Dillon who was murdered by the LVF on 27 December stated that Ken Maginnis made false claims about Seamus saying he was, ``still active within the Republican Movement at the time of his death''.
Mr Dillon's statement said that Maginnis should, ``given the influence that his utterances have, desist from making such spurious statements as they only served to attempt to justify the murderous activities of the LVF.

``Seamus, who with his colleagues on the night of the attack by their courageous actions saved the lives of many young people within the Glengannon, had severed all links with the Republican Movement since coming out of prison in 1992 and he had dedicated his life to caring for his wife and family.''.

LVF claim both attacks

In statements to the media, the Loyalist Volunteer Force claimed responsibilty for both the Tyrone and North Belfast attacks, linking them to the death of LVF leader Billy Wright.

A notorious loyalist killer, Billy Wright was shot dead in the H Blocks of Long Kesh two weeks ago. The shooting was carried out by INLA prisoners, housed in a separate wing of the same block as LVF inmates. Wright, nicknamed by the media King Rat, has been directly linked to over 40 sectarian killings in the North. An open advocate of random sectarian attacks on the Catholic community his victims included teenage girls, Eileen Duffy and Katrina Rennie, a pregnant woman, Kathleen O Hagan and pensioners, Charlie and Teresa Fox.

In 1996 Wright and the entire membership of the UVF in Mid Ulster were expelled from the UVF after breaching the loyalist ceasefire during the Drumcree stand off of 1996. Wright responded by forming his own paramilitary grouping the LVF. At the time of his death Wright was serving an eight year sentence for threatening a Protestant woman, Gwen Reed.

Despite Wright's imprisonment he continued to direct sectarian attacks, remaining a key player in the loyalist campaign of terror against the nationalist population of the North. Just weeks before his death, the UVF leadership sent a representative into the jail to ask Wright to consider rejoining the UVF, bringing the LVF with him. Wright refused, prefering to court fellow loyalist killer Johnny Adair, the Shankill's notorious UDA leader currently serving a 16 year sentence in the Kesh.

Adair is thought to have instructed the UDA in Belfast to assist the LVF in the attack on the Clifton Tavern. Witnesses claim a well-known member of the UDA was in the car used by the killers. It is also belived that the LVF received assistance from the UDA in Rathcoole when it murdered GAA offical Gerry Devlin in early December. As the controversay continues, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has called on the RUC to release all forensic evidence on the weapons used in the attacks on the Glengannon Hotel and Clifton Tavern.

``It is now ten days since the Glengannon attack and the RUC have yet to release any information even as to the calibre of weapon used. The RUC must divulge immediately any information both about the type of weapon used and its history so that the general public can be made aware of exactly what loyalist factions were responsible. Although the LVF have claimed responsiblity for the attack and that on the Clifton Tavern, it is widely believed in the nationalist community that the larger loyalist factions were also invloved in both murders.''

Victims of recent loyalist sectarian attacks

Michael McGoldrick, Catholic taxi driver, July 1996
John Slane (44), West Belfast Catholic, shot dead March 1997
Robert Hamill, Portadown Catholic kicked to death, died May 1997.
Sean Brown, GAA offical, abducted, tortured and murdered May 1997.
Bernadette Martin (18) Catholic murdered in Co Antrim home of Protestant boyfriend July 1997.
James Morgan (16) abducted, mutilated body dumped in lime pit July 1997.
Gerry Devlin, GAA official, shot dead St Enda's GAA club December 1997.
Seamus Dillon, Catholic doorman Glengannon Hotel, Co. Tyrone, shot dead December 1997. Three injured.
Edmund Treanor, North Belfast Catholic, shot dead Cliftonville Tavern, December 1997. Six injured.

Nationalists warned to be vigilant

North Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Danny Lavery has warned nationalists to be ``cautious and vigilant'' after the RUC informed a man working for a North Belfast taxi firm that his number plates were found on a stolen car that had been stopped in the Loyalist Donegal Pass area of Belfast. Lavery called this a ``sinister development as [the] method of removing number plates has previously been used by loyalists before attacks on nationalists.''

Late last year the number plates of Sinn Féin councillor Sue Ramsey were found on car dumped in the Shankill Road.

Meanwhile nationalists from Greymount on the outskirts of North Belfast are being forced from their homes. Following a New Year's Eve gun attack, a warning was phoned into the Boundary Bar naming six families and telling them to leave the area within 14 days. The area, a UDA stronghold, which is less than 200 metres from an RUC barracks, has been the scene of continual intimidation by loyalists since June last year.

Meanwhile the death of Derry man Nigel Birnie in a car crash at Lisfannon, County Donegal on Friday 2 January has raised the spectre of loyalist attacks in Donegal. Following the man's death a sympathy notice was published in the Belfast Telegraph from his friends in `C.Coy', UVF in Derry. Sinn Fein Councillor Cathal Crumley has called on the Gardai in Donegal to release details of their investigation into the death.

Said Crumley, ``events of the past week have shown that loyalists are intent on carrying out mass murder. The Gardai must not feed into genuine nationalist fears by witholding information about the activities of known loyalists in the 26-counties.''

In May 1991 the UDA killed Sinn Féin councillor Eddie Fullerton in Buncrana, not far from where last week's crash occurred. Two other men injured in the crash are at present in hospital.




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