18 February 1999 Edition
LVF suspected of bar attack
An Phoblacht has learned that those involved in the grenade attack on McNally's bar outside Toomebridge on Monday night of last week came from the town of Antrim, known for its high level of LVF activity.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing two cars, one a red Nissan and the other a blue Sierra, joining the M2 at the Antrim onslip. The two cars drove along the M2, through Toomebridge, until they reached the Bellaghy turnoff. They then turned back towards Toomebridge stopping to attack McNally's bar and making their getaway through Toomebridge towards the town of Antrim.
An Phoblacht has also been told that other cars which travelled through the area around the time of the attack have been contacted by the RUC who claimed to be ``eliminating them from their enquiries''.
``If the RUC can track down those travelling through Toomebridge at the time, then why can they not track down those who carried out the attack and passed through the town after it, passing the barracks?'' asked Sinn Fein Assembly member for the area, John Kelly.
This is not the first time that the RUC in Toomebridge have failed to catch loyalist death squad members after attacks on Catholics. An Phoblacht reported on 22 May 1997 that the LVF members who murdered GAA stalwart Sean Brown also drove past Toomebridge RUC barracks on their way back to Antrim but the cameras which monitor every vehicle passing on the main Derry to Belfast Road failed to identify any of the killers.
Antrim has long been a hotbed of LVF activity in the area. Local Catholic residents have been victims of an LVF terror campaign with shots being fired through the windows of Catholic houses and on the eve of Billy Wright's funeral the RUC were accused of turning a blind eye to LVF activity in the area after 15 to 20 armed men set up roadblocks and fired shots in tribute to him.
Hours before the LVF killing of Ciaran Heffron in Crumlin in April 1998 some of the crowd at a DUP rally in Antrim sported LVF T-shirts. Also in attendance were known LVF gunmen.
More recently the same LVF members in Antrim have used the cover of the Orange Volunteers to carry out further attacks in Antrim, Randalstown, Aldergrove and the recent bomb attacks on the White Horse Inn in Crumlin and McNally's bar.
Sinn Fein's Martin Meehan said that ``certain parties in the no-camp have been acting as mouthpieces for loyalist dissidents in the area''. The attacks, he believes are ``due to the resurgence of Republicanism in the South Antrim area particularly in the last six months. Since the Assembly elections Sinn Fein has gone from strength to strength in the area leading loyalists to attack innocent Catholics because they feel threatened by our growth''.
Upsurge in Loyalist attacks
Castleward Sinn Fein councillor Danny Lavery, has hit out at the Loyalists responsible for Friday night's pipe-bomb attack on Bridie Smith in the Graymount area of Greencastle.
He said: ``On Friday night a device exploded in the back garden of a house in Graymount Parade. We have also recieived local reports of two similar incidents involving similar devices in the last ten days. Local people have reported them to the RUC and I call on the RUC to confirm the incidents.''
``These,'' he added, ``are only the latest in a long series of sectarian attqacks in this area, and while Bridie Smith was a resident of the area for nearly 35 years, they are clearly aimed at driving out the remaining Catholic families from this previously mixed area. The RUC have described the device used on Friday night as primitive, but regardless of such distinctions, these bombs can cause serious injury and possible death. These attacks amount to sustained intimidation on this estate.''
The Sinn Fein councillor also urged Loyalist politicians To ``act to defuse the tension in the area and use their public office to get this campaign halted''.
``Loyalist violence is occuring on an almost daily basis across the north and Nationalists see it as being clearly aimed at exploiting the curreny difficulties in the peace process caused by the Unionist fear of the changes that this process is bringing,'' added the councillor.