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12 November 1998 Edition

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Family terrorised by RUC

By Laura Friel

A Ballymurphy family known throughout Belfast for their Christmas lights extravaganza have, not for the first time, become the focus of a brutal RUC raid.

A sixty strong RUC squad, in 16 jeeps, smashed their way into the McManus family home during an illegal raid shortly after 9pm last Saturday.

42-year-old Paddy McManus was watching television with a friend and the youngest six of his twelve children. His wife Mary, who tried to open the door, was pushed to the ground, her legs trapped beneath the door which had been smashed off its hinges. She needed hospital treatment after the RUC ran over her and into the house.

Children were terrorised as the RUC cocked their weapons and held them to their heads. An RUC officer jumped over the coffee table and held a revolver to the head of 23-year-old James. ``The RUC were screaming, lie down or you're dead,'' said James, ``they were like an assassination squad.''

Seven year old Kieran was thrown to the ground and a gun put to his head. 12-year-old Ann was trailed by the hair out into the back. ``Everyone was terrified, Ann was screaming as they dragged her out,'' said James. For a young girl on the threshold of womanhood, the fact that a brutal assault was carried out by hostile male RUC officers adds a further dimension to the ordeal.

An older son, 24-year-old Patrick, who lives nearby, was alerted by neighbours and ran over to his father's house.

When he tried to push past RUC officers at the front door, he was beaten with batons. When a second brother, Michael, tried to intervene, he was also beaten about the legs.

The RUC squad rampaged through the house for over an hour. ``It felt much longer,'' said Patrick, ``the upstairs of the house was wrecked.'' At no time were the family shown a warrant authorising the raid. ``There was no warrant, no arrests and no explanations,'' Patrick said. One RUC officer muttered something about searching for arms and explosives as he walked out, ``but it was just an excuse,'' said Patrick. An RUC Inspector present during the raid refused to give his name or number.

The family were further distressed when they discovered £585 was missing from a bureau upstairs. ``It was money saved to buy Christmas gifts for the kids,'' Patrick said. ``The bureau had been smashed open and the money was missing.''

Two years ago the RUC raided the house and deliberately opened the children's presents in front of them. In an imaginative, defiant response Paddy McManus decorated the house with Christmas lights. A full size Nativity, floodlit Santa and his reindeer have made the McManus house famous throughout nationalist Belfast and last year it attracted widespread media coverage. ``People bring their children to see the decorations,'' Patrick said. ``We've become a bit of an institution. Everyone enjoys the display.'' Everyone but the RUC that is.

Over the last two years the McManus family have been targeted for harassment by British Crown forces. ``My father has received death threats,'' says Patrick. In one incident Paddy received a birthday card with a bullet inside the envelope and signed `Royal Marine Commandos'.


Raids in Fermanagh


SF Councillor Robin Martin has slammed the RUC after raids in the Kinawley and Derrylin areas of Fermanagh. The councillor was particularly angry at the arrest and detention of a 16-year-old boy during the raids. The boy was getting dressed for school when three car loads of RUC men arrived at his home. After ransacking the house for over an hour the boy was taken to Strand Road Interrogation centre in Derry where he underwent 12 hours of intense questioning. This is just one in a long line of cases of harassment and intimidation of nationalists by the RUC, said. Martin. The arrest of this young lad on his way to school serves no purpose other than to intimidate, shock and threaten.
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