11 February 1999 Edition
Loyalists attempt mass murder
By Padraig MacDabhaid
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has described Monday's bomb attack in which customers at McNally's bar in Toomebridge were showered in glass ``as an attempt to kill and maim a large number of local nationalists''.
Speaking to An Phoblacht, bar owner Francie McNally said:
``At approximately 10.20 pm... I was sitting speaking with two friends in the bar when I heard an explosion. Customers were showered in glass from the window which was blown in and drinks were blown off the tables. I told the customers to get down. We remained on the ground for the next few minutes but no follow-up attack occurred''.
The explosion caused minor damage to the outside of the premises. The three customers closest to the window where the device exploded were Turkish lorry drivers on their way to Derry.
This is the second time Francie McNally has been targeted. His brother Phelim was murdered in the previous attack on Francie's home in November 1988.
Martin McGuinness, the Mid-Ulster MP, said, ``the use of a grenade in this attack is a worrying development. A consignment of such devices was smuggled from South Africa for use by loyalist groups during the eighties. There has never been a satisfactory investigation into British Military Intelligence involvement in these matters, and in particular the role of Brian Nelson. The result of this failure has been a countless number of attacks on nationalists throughout the Six Counties resulting in many deaths''.
This attack is one of many which has taken place within the area recently. Magherafelt Sinn Fein councillor Seamus O'Brien said ``this has all the hallmarks of a sectarian attack and is part of the ongoing campaign by loyalists who are selecting Catholic targets''.
Loyalist pipe bomb attacks also took place against bar in Crumlin, Co Antrim and a house in the Greenmount area of North Belfast.
Taxi driver assaulted
A woman taxi driver has recounted how she was attacked on 9 February by a loyalist gang as she waited outside a Chinese takeaway for a passenger.
Jennifer Race, who works for a firm in the Twinbrook area, says her attackers knew by the name on the cab roof that she worked for a Catholic-owned firm.
Mrs Race told how she was punched through an open window as the car was rocked and the doors kicked. The thugs then tried to pull her out of the car. She said, ``a couple of young fellows came over to the car asking me if I was from a particular firm and at first I thought they must have been looking for a taxi and I wound the window down and said yes. But suddenly they went totally mad and began shouting fenian this and fenian that. One of them grabbed me by the shoulder and tried to pull me towards the window and punched me on the head and neck and shoulders.''
UVF recruiting in Derry
Fears of the growing loyalist threat have increased after it was announced that the UVF have launched a major recruitment and rearmament drive in parts of the North.
The UVF claimed that it has increased its membership over the last three years while it was supposed to be on ceasefire and that they now have a base in every town and village in the ``North Ulster'' area. In a statement the group said they were continually recruiting, re-arming and training throughout ``North Ulster'' and had acquired a 66mm anti-tank gun. This claim comes on the back of recent veiled threats by Billy Hutchinson against tourists and agricultural interests in the 26 counties.
Sinn Fein's North Antrim representative, James McCarry, said, ``it is clear that recent propaganda shots by the North Antrim UVF are an attempt to shift attention away from the drug dealing and racketeering which the gang has been involved in for many years''.
McCarry urged nationalists in the North Antrim area to remain vigilant.