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28 January 1999 Edition

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Increase in loyalist attacks

By Laura Friel

Gerry Kelly, Sinn Fein Assembly member for North Belfast has urged Catholics and nationalists to be ``mindful of their security'' as sectarian attacks by loyalists continue in the North.

Kelly accused Loyalist and Unionist leaders of encouraging sectarian attacks. ``Comments by leading Unionists and implicit threats by loyalists are encouraging attacks such as we have seen in Larne last weekend and in other places in the North in recent weeks.''

PUP leader Billy Hutchinson has said that loyalist gunmen may attack targets in the 26 Counties if the Good Friday Agreement failed. Hutchinson said ``irrespective of whether there is republican violence or not, loyalists will be dragged back into it,'' if they felt they were being asked to accept ``an Anglo-Irish Agreement Mark Two''.

Meanwhile Catholics in vulnerable areas continue to bear the brunt of the political vacuum created by Unionist stalling tactics. Two Catholic families escaped injury when blast bombs were thrown at their homes in Larne at the weekend. Both families escaped injury.

The double attack followed an attempt earlier in the week in the same area to burn out a Catholic family. A young couple escaped injury only after they were alerted to the blaze at their home.

In North Belfast on Saturday night, a bomb under the car of a Catholic family was defused after two telephone warnings. The RUC failed to respond to the first telephone warning. A second pipe bomb left under the car of a family in Greenisland was discovered after a telephone warning to the Samaritans.

First Minister designate David Trimble criticised those ``posing as defenders of loyalism'' for ``giving republicans an excuse to hang on to their weapons.''

Meanwhile eleven Catholic families have been forced out of their homes in the Garvaghy Road area of Portadown after months of loyalist protests over Drumcree. Ten of the eleven families were living in Craigwell Avenue, a link road between the main Garvaghy Road and the loyalist Corcrain area. The latest family forced to flee is now living in a caravan in Armagh city while they wait for a new home. The young family, with 18 month old twins and a three year old daughter, had endured sectarian abuse night after night as hundreds, sometimes thousands of loyalists protested outside their home.

Despite RUC attempts to disavow sectarian intimidation in the area, most of the houses abandoned in Craigwell have been bought under an emergency purchase scheme in place for victims of intimidation.
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