24 July 1997 Edition
Sectarian shooting and intimidation
A young Ardoyne nationalist narrowly escaped a loyalist gun attack in Ardoyne on Wednesday 16 July.
The sectarian attack came in the early evening when the gunmen failed to break into a neighbours house. They hopped a fence and shot through the living room window of the house next door before speeding off in a car towards the Crumlin Road.
A twenty-one year old man managed to escape through the back of his house, despite having a broken leg. He was later said to be shocked but otherwise unhurt.
Neighbours described how the loyalists ignored the presence of children playing in the immediate vicinity to fire four shots at the man, in what was evidently a random sectarian attack.
Sinn Fein Councillor Bobby Lavery described the incident as ``the latest loyalist no-claim no-blame attack on nationalists,'' before appealing for calm and vigilance.
Meanwhile another loyalist campaign of sectarian harassment against Catholic families in a Magherafelt housing estate has culminated in a young couple being advised by the RUC to leave their home.
Sinn Fein Magherafelt District Council Chairperson Patsy Groogan spoke to An Phoblacht about the plight of the Catholic families in Leckagh Drive.
He confirmed that the harassment had escalated over the past two years, with many Catholic families being intimidated out of the estate.
One young couple have been informed by the RUC that their lives are in danger. The couple recently had paint sprayed over their car, and `LVF' daubed on their house. Following RUC advice to move, the Housing Executive fitted grilles to the couple's house, as well as other houses.
Groogan stated ``the harassment is not just confined to loyalist and Union Jack flags, and red, white and blue kerbs-stones, but street lights around nationalist homes being smashed, and windows smashed. The area is very tense and I urge nationalists to be vigilant.''
Estates besieged in Newry
RUC seal off Ardoyne
By Mick Naughton
``It was their usual response to a loyalist attack on this district,'' remarked a grandmother from Cranbrook Gardens last Friday 18 July as she surveyed the six British soldiers from the Royal Engineers Regiment camped out in her front garden. They were part of a hundreds strong crown forces raiding party that laid siege to Ardoyne.
She was speaking less than 48 hours after a loyalist death squad had attacked a house nearby. The massive raids also happened days after loyalist politicians accused the crown forces of being soft on republicans.
The woman, who did not wish to be named, told An Phoblacht:
``In August 1971 my home was burnt to the ground as were others in Farrington Gardens while the British army stood and watched loyalist mobs enter our homes and torch them. I live in this house which is almost on the spot where my old home used to be. These soldiers have brought all those terrible memories back.''.
``It's community punishment,'' said another resident, a young mother of three. ``They are only here because of an appeasement policy for unionists and loyalists.''
This view was common among those gathered outside their homes along the Berwick Road between the time the raids started and by the time the last Saxon lumbered out of Ardoyne Avenue around teatime. During the day nothing was found by the raiding parties in what RUC commander Michael Brown described as ``an area search.''
This was rubbished by some who had earlier approached Sinn Fein with details of how RUC members were boasting at how they were ``going to teach the Taigs in Ardoyne a lesson for the Orangemen.''
``Look at this form,'' continued the Cranbook grandmother. ``It was given to me after the Royal Engineers searched my home. I challenge this stupid RUC commander to examine it. It quite clearly states that nothing was found in my home or no damage was caused and it was signed by a corporal whose signature is illegible. But the patrols number is on it. Look.''
On advice from local Sinn Féin Councillor Mick Conlon the document was lodged with the woman's solictor pending a legal challenge to the raid on her home.
``This RUC's Superintendent's statement is untrue,'' said Conlon.
``I have seen this woman's form and others which prove they were in searching nationalist homes. Brown's comment that the operation was `an area search, rather than a house search,' is plainly at odds with the facts of the matter. I also find it amazing that as the leaders of nationalist Ireland were putting the final peace blocks into place those in the British army and RUC HQ's were finalizing their invasion plans for Ardoyne.''
Similar raids were also taking place in Newry's Derrybeg and Barcroft areas on 18 July which were challenged by local Sinn Féin councillors.
``Since 6.30am nationalists in Newry have been subjected to a mass invasion of crown forces personnel who have effectively sealed the Barcroft and Derrybeg estates,'' said councillor Davy Hyland. ``Every car is being stopped and searched and pedestrians are being questioned in the most aggressive manner. Houses, sheds and gardens are also being searched and a cordon has been set up around two community centres.''
Hyland also told how armoured personnel carriers drove recklessly at speed through the estates with one particular incident standing out.
``One APC crashed through the gates of a community facility, endangering the lives of local people. What we are witnessing here is martial law being enforced and I demand that the RUC and British army account for this attack on the nationalists of Newry and that they withdraw immediately from the area.''