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31 August 2006 Edition

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Upsurge of unionist paramilitary activity in North Antrim

Unionist paramilitaries are being blamed for a series of threats against the lives of all Sinn Féin's elected representatives in North Antrim over the past week.

A death threat was also made against the party's sole representative on the unionist-dominated Coleraine council, Billy Leonard.

The threats coincided with the news that two nationalist families were attacked in the North Antrim area.

In the first incident, the home of a nationalist family was attacked last weekend. The house, on the Straid Road outside Ahoghill, had a number of windows broken, while the windows of a car parked outside the dwelling were also smashed.

Last year, Ahoghill was synonymous with sectarianism after a number of Catholic families were forced out of the village by loyalist mobs.

The second attack took place in Dunfane Park in Ballymena where two petrol bombs were hurled through the front window of the home of another family. Peter Faith, his wife Jackie and two children aged seven and 11 were asleep when the devices were thrown at the house at 1am on Tuesday morning, 29 August.

The petrol bombs exploded in the sitting room.

Campaign of intimidation

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin assembly member for North Antrim Philip McGuigan is accusing unionist paramilitaries of "stepping up their campaign of intimidation against Sinn Féin in the North Antrim area".

McGuigan was speaking after a series of threats were made against the party's representatives on both Ballymoney and Ballymena councils, as well as against Billy Leonard who sits on Coleraine council.

The first threats were directed at Anita Cavlan and Monica Digney on Monday morning, 28 August, when they were told that incendiary bombs were left under their cars.

Cavlan and Digney, who sit on Ballymoney and Ballymena councils respectively, were staffing the Sinn Féin stall at the Auld Lammas Fair in the North Antrim town of Ballycastle when they were informed of the threats.

Fassagh Park in Dunloy, where Cavlan lives, was sealed off until the threat was cleared. The threat against Digney was also declared a hoax.

Then on Monday evening, a further two warnings were issued against North Antrim Assembly member Philip McGuigan and Coleraine councillor Billy Leonard.

As An Phoblacht goes to press we have been told that for the second time this week loyalists have called Councillor Cavlan at her Dunloy home and threatened her life.

The caller told Cavlan, "You and the other two Sinn Féin councillors on Ballymoney council are dead. You will all be killed."

The caller phoned a second time and warned, "Cavlan you're dead, dead, dead," and laughed down the phone before hanging up.

Speaking to An Phoblacht, Philip McGuigan said, "This is clearly a part of an organised campaign directed by unionist paramilitaries.

"These threats are the other end of the spectrum from the DUP who refuse to talk to Sinn Féin. It is no surprise that unionist paramilitaries think it acceptable to threaten Sinn Féin representatives when the DUP behaves in the way it does."

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