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9 July 1998 Edition

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Orangeism's anti-Catholic blitz

The past week has seen an arson blitz against Catholic homes, chapels and businesses. Within the first 48 hours of the Drumcree stand-off 73 Catholic homes and 71 businesses were attacked, 136 cars had been hijacked and another 213 badly damaged, dozens of roads have been blocked by burning vehicles and loyalist protestors and gunmen have attacked the RUC on numerous occasions. Much of the damage caused by loyalists in North Belfast was against Catholic Churches and primary schools.

Family's lucky escape


In the early hours of the morning of Saturday 4 July, two petrol bombs were thrown at the Antrim home of a Catholic family as they slept, causing extensive damage to the exterior of the building.

On the same night a caller to a Belfast newsroom claiming to be from the Mid-Ulster UVF warned that if Orangemen were attacked on the streets by the security forces, then the UVF would consider it an ``act of war''.

On Tuesday night tourists from Australia and England came under attack when a Catholic owned guesthouse in Carrickfergus was petrol bombed in the early hours of Tuesday 7 July. The owners were sitting in the front room of their guesthouse when thugs used an iron bar to break the double-glazed window before throwing three potentially lethal petrol bombs through the window.

A hostel for the homeless in Castlereagh Street, in east Belfast, had to be evacuated after it was attacked by a mob wielding iron bars smashed windows.

 

Barbarians burn chapels



By Sean O'Tuama

``I can't believe this has taken place,'' said Hugh Heffron gazing with tear-filled eyes at the burnt-out husk of his local chapel, St James' in Crumlin, County Down on Thursday 3 July. It was burned by loyalists believed to be connected to the Loyalist Volunteer Force, along with nine other chapels across the North.

His son, Ciaran, lay just yards away in the graveyard. His funeral had taken place in April after he was gunned down by a death squad of the LVF.

Both Catholic parishioners and their Protestant neighbours gathered in the grounds of the 200 year old building, many weeping as they surveyed the wanton destruction of a place of worship.

The ten Catholic chapels were attacked on Wednesday night, 2 July in a carefully coordinated campaign. In many cases hoax calls were made to the Fire Service to draw them away from the blazing churches.

The worst hit chapels were in Crumlin, Lisburn, Castlewellan, Belfast and Tandragee. Others in Banbridge, Portadown and two in Dungannon sustained mainly smoke and water damage.

Twenty one churches have been attacked so far this year, including these ten, the vast majority being Catholic chapels.

The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Leitrim, County Down had been in the middle of a £250,000 refurbishment when loyalists doused it with petrol and ignited it that Wednesday night.

SF Assembly member for South Down, Mick Murphy, slammed the attack as ``disgraceful'' and added ``It is all the more shocking in an area that has never known sectarianism.''

The repair bill for all the chapels is set to run into millions of pounds.

 

North Belfast under siege



A young nationalist mother was still trying to calm her five distraught children on Monday morning 6 July. The previous evening a loyalist gang had twice attacked her home in Rosapenna Street, North Belfast, by using a ladder to scale the peaceline before launching attacks on houses with bricks and paint bombs.

The woman, who did not wish to be named, said ``It was a gang of four or five men. One climbed onto the low roof at the back of the house and smashed the back windows. The others tried to break down the back door. We were all terrified.''

Fortunately, local residents promptly raised the alarm and chased the gang from the area on both occasions.

The family, who had been driven from their home in the Torrens area of the city two years ago by a loyalist mob, vowed to remain in their home.

Several hours before the attack Orangemen and other loyalists staged a one hour stand-off with crown forces on the corner of Rosapenna Street and Oldpark Road.

On the same night the home of an elderly couple in Victoria Gardens, off the Cavehill Road, came under attack from a loyalist mob throwing petrol bombs. Some of the mob, wielding iron bars and breeze blocks, attacked a number of houses before being repelled by residents from the surrounding area. The couple were evacuated from their home and community activists have since been helping them to move out. Crown forces, who had a presence in the area at the time, stood by during the loyalist assault.

Earlier in the evening, around 6pm, a crowd of some fifty Orangemen attempted to march their original ``Tour of the North'' route through four nationalist areas of north Belfast. They were stopped at Cliftonpark Avenue by the RUC. Gerry Kelly, a local SF Assembly member, described the attempted march as ``intimidation by the Orange Order. Clearly the Orange card is once again being played.''

In the Ligoniel area loyalists felled trees and telegraph poles, blocking roads into the small nationalist enclave.

And on the Ballysillan Road two loyalists were caught by the RUC in possession of firearms and ammunition.

Also on Monday night crown forces at the RUC barracks on York Road were attacked by loyalists with a blast bomb and petrol bombs. And shots were fired at them in nearby Duncairn Gardens from the loyalist Tiger's Bay. On the other side of Tiger's Bay a loyalist mob gathered to take photographs and film nationalist residents and crown forces on the Limestone Road. Neither the RUC nor the British troops present did anything to prevent this provocative behaviour.

Later in the evening the Catholic Holy Cross Boys School in Ardoyne was damaged in a sectarian assault.

On the previous night roads were blocked across the north of the city including in Glengormley, Crumlin Road, Fortwilliam roundabout and Skegoneill Avenue.

 

Nationalists shot at in Lurgan



Two students were shot at by three gunmen from the loyalist Mourneview estate in Lurgan on Tuesday night, 7 July.

The attack happened as the man and woman were returning to the nationalist Collingwood estate. The woman was in shock after the incident and later collapsed in a neighbour's house.

A loyalist mob had crossed the Tandragee Road which separates the two estates earlier in the evening to attack houses on Collingwood Avenue with petrol bombs and blast bombs. Sean and Joan Dowds home was damaged in the assault. Mr Dowds subsequently suffered an angina attack which required hospital treatment.

A young couple with a baby were rescued from their home by neighbours after it was set alight by petrol bombers. Local residents acted swiftly to bring the blaze under control before the arrival of the fire brigade.

Crown forces in jeeps backed up with a helicopter flooded into the nationalist area after the attack but did not pursue the loyalists back into the Mourneview estate.

Collingwood, along with other nationalist estates in Lurgan, was invaded by crown forces last week allegedly in a search for weapons. Nothing was found.

 

Crown forces set man up



A West Belfastman was attacked by a loyalist mob after he was flagged through an RUC/British army checkpoint on the Springfield Road on Monday 6 July.

When the man approached the checkpoint in his car, he asked a British soldier if it was safe to drive up the road, and he was waved on. As he drove on he was flagged down by a loyalist mob blocking the road. When he tried to get away he was attacked by large stones and bricks that smashed the windows of the car. He narrowly escaped serious injury. As he drove further down the road he was blocked by the RUC who accused him of driving up the road when he had been advised not to. One RUC man asked him if he had placed the bricks in the car himself.

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