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4 February 1999 Edition

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Loyalist threat grows

Nationalists throughout the Six Counties are being warned to be vigilant during the current upsurge in loyalist attacks and threats.

Arson and bomb attacks by the Red Hand Defenders - a flag of convenience for members of the LVF - continue unabated. The UVF have boasted that they have re-armed and Billy Hutchinson, their political representative, has issued a veiled threat against tourists and agricultural interests in the 26 Counties. In Portadown the loyalist siege of the nationalist Garvaghy Road continues with attacks and threats of an escalation over the next months.

These are the actions of people who resist the type of structural change that is needed if peace and justice are to achieved.

The threats and violence are against a background of the continued refusal by the Unionist political leadership to implement the Good Friday Agreement. The hard-won negotiations charted a way out of conflict, a transitional period when equality and justice could be achieved. It seems now that those concepts are proving hard for those who wish to retain a position of supremacy. The violence, threats and intransigence are the working out of this attitude of supremacy.

Those who wish to turn the clock back must be faced down. The position is clear. The Agreement must be implemented.

 

Loyalists attack Antrim massgoers



By Laura Friel

A sectarian bomb attack at a Catholic church during Mass is the latest in a series of loyalist attacks against the nationalist population in Antrim town.

A pipe bomb was thrown towards a group of parishioners as they stood in the doorway of St Joseph's Chapel as they attended Mass on Monday.

The attack was later claimed by a group calling itself the Red Hand Defenders. Threatening fatalities in future attacks, the loyalist grouping said it reserved the right to have more ``first strikes'' whenever the opportunity arose.

The Red Hand Defenders, a flag of convenience for members of the Loyalist Volunteer Force, have claimed a series of recent sectarian bomb and gun attacks including the murder of North Belfast Catholic Brian Service late last year.

The attack at St Joseph's follows a spate of attacks on Catholic churches in County Antrim. St James' church in the Crumlin area was destroyed during a loyalist fire bomb blitz of ten Catholic chapels in the run up to Drumcree last year. In Antrim town in recent months 16 Catholic families have been intimidated out of one estate, three churches have been attacked and in recent years there has been three sectarian murders.

 

Sectarian attack in Dungannon



The County Tyrone family who narrowly escaped death at the hands of loyalist terrorists have expressed their shock and horror at the sectarian attack.

The mother and her four young children, the youngest of which is five and the eldest 12, were asleep when the incident occurred at around 1am last Thursday. They were forced to flee the house after a pipe-bomb was thrown through the kitchen window of the family's Dungannon home.

Mary Quinn was asleep in the living room, while her children were peacefully sleeping upstairs. Her husband, Patsy, was not in the house at the time, and he expressed his amazement at the attack. ``I have no idea why we were targeted. I suppose it was just because we are an easy target with the main road running beside the house.''

This incident was the latest in a long line of indiscriminate sectarian attacks on Catholic homes. Sinn Fein's Mid-Ulster Assembly member, Francie Molloy, accused those who threw the bomb of trying to ``wipe out an entire family.''

Mr Molloy, in a statement, said the attack was ``part of an ever increasing loyalist sectarian campaign. This sectarian campaign is being encouraged by the stance taken by anti-Agreement unionists. Their opposition to the Agreement is fuelling instability among the unionist people. Into this unstable situation step loyalists with pipe and petrol bombs. And, as usual, innocent and vulnerable Catholics have to pay the price.''

 

Garvaghy residents flee loyalist attacks



By Laura Friel

Catholic families were forced to flee after a loyalist mob attacked their Garvaghy Road homes. Around 250 loyalists gathered at the bottom end of Garvaghy Road at around 7.15pm on Tuesday. The mob, many of which were wearing masks and carrying cudgels, attacked a number of homes and vehicles.

One woman resident was struck by a loyalist wielding an iron bar and a 16-year-old youth required hospital treatment after he was struck on the head by loyalists.

Families living in the immediate vicinity of the loyalist `protest' were forced to flee from their homes in fear of serious attack. Despite the fact that the RUC was called at 7.15pm by a number of residents asking for assistance, the RUC failed to respond immediately. They arrived fifty minutes later at 8.05pm.

The RUC, who came dressed in full riot gear, were described by local people as ``hostile'' even towards the nationalist families, many of whom included young children, who had fled their homes in fear.

RUC hostility even extended to the media. A UTV cameraman was unceremoniously pushed aside. The RUC made no attempt to disperse or arrest members of the loyalist crowd who remained to taunt and intimidate nationalist residents for a further three hours.

Tuesday's incident follows a similar `protest' by loyalists three weeks ago on Tuesday 12 January. Local people have described the protests as orchestrated by the DUP and people connected to loyalist paramilitaries.

Paul Berry, DUP Assembly member, and ironically a member of the victims' commission, was present at both loyalist gatherings. Nationalist families were only able to return to their homes at 11.45pm, after almost five hours of intimidation. Tuesday's attacks follow a number of incidents over the weekend in which Catholic homes and vehicles were attacked with stones and half an inch thick iron bolts fired by catapults. Speaking after the attacks, Garvaghy Residents' spokesperson Breandan Mac Cionnaith said that once again the incident called into question policing in Portadown. He accused the RUC of acting as facilitators of illegal loyalist protests. ``A crowd wearing masks and carrying cudgels is not engaged in peaceful protest,'' he said.

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