15 April 1999 Edition
Loyalists renew Harryville picket
The loyalist picket of the Saturday 6pm mass at the Church of Our Lady in Harryville, Ballymena, restarted last weekend with groups of loyalists, including DUP councillor Davy Tweed, laying siege to the Catholic chapel.
The last time loyalists were involved in the Harryville picket, which lasted for 20 months between 1996 to 1998, they justified their activity by linking it to the banning of a loyalist parade in nearby Dunloy. This time around, they are claiming their action is in support of Drumcree Orangemen. Whatever the pretext, the Catholic parishioners of Harryville are now facing renewed sectarian intimidation.
Dismissing the loyalist excuse for restarting the Harryville picket, Sinn Féin Assembly member Dara O'Hagan told An Phoblacht: ``It has more to do with the unionist `No' men attempting to increase tension and destabalise the peace process than it has to do with Drumcree or Dunloy. It is part of the continuing Orange campaign to increase the pressure on David Trimble.
``This is an act of blatant sectarian provocation directly linked to the Orange Order-organised siege of the Garvaghy Road. We are consistently lectured by the Orange Order about their commitment to `civil and religious liberty for all, but at the same time it appears that their supporters are threatening to prevent people from practising their religion at their local church.''
``This is a test of the British government's willingness to defend the Good Friday Agreement which guarantees the right of people to live free from sectarian harassment.''
DUP leader Ian Paisley, the local MP, has refused to condemn the Harryville picket.
Meanwhile, a threatened loyalist picket of St. John the Baptist Church at the top of the Garvaghy Road last Saturday failed to materialise.
Orange Volunteers behind Antrim bomb attack
The Orange Volunteers have claimed responsibility for the pipe-bomb attack on the Barley Corn bar on the Seven Mile Straight near Nutts Corner in County Antrim on Friday, 9 April.
One man was rushed to hospital with chest and leg injuries after the pipe bomb exploded shortly after 10pm, but he is now in a stable condition. The Orange Volunteers also claimed to have planted another device outside a different bar in the area.
Martin Meehan, Sinn Féin's representative in the area, said this recent loyalist attack is only the latest in a sectarian campaign carried out by loyalists against Catholics and nationalists in South Antrim.
Last week, a couple on the Steeples estate in Antrim were also targeted by loyalists. They believe they were targeted and that their two cars, parked outside their home, were destroyed because they are in a mixed relationship.
``Unionists, such as the DUP,'' said Martin Meehan, ``have failed to condemn the mounting tide of sectarian attacks against Catholics and nationalists. It is time for them to support the democratic rights of all people and call for people to be allowed to live free from sectarian fear and harassment. You can only question their motives for not doing so.''
He also urged all Catholics and nationalists in South Antrim to be extra vigilant in the weeks and months ahead.
Loyalists target Catholics in Derry
A Derry mother has been decribing the ordeal of her husband and son at the hands of loyalist thugs. She says that her 46-year-old husband was pinned to a wall and forced to watch as a 20-strong loyalist gang kicked and punched her son in the face, head and body as the two men returned home on St. Patrick's Day.
Details of the attack only emerged last Friday, and the woman insisted that the loyalists attacked the men, ``simply because they were Catholics and easy targets''.
The attack took place on Spencer Road in the Waterside area of Derry at about 10.30pm. The woman added that during the assault the loyalists argued among themselves ``over whose turn it was to have a go''. She said certain areas of the Waterside are no-go areas for Catholics after dark, and warned that ``the next vicious attack could be fatal''.
North Belfast residents advised to be vigilant
North Belfast Sinn Féin councillor Danny Lavery is warning nationalists to be extra vigilant after two loyalist attacks last week.
Lavery said that a 20-year-old man from the Bawnmore area was chased by a loyalist gang while walking home in the early hours of Wednesday morning April 7. A car containing five men pulled up beside the man under the motorway bridge on the Shore Road. The men, at least one whom was armed, jumped from the car and chased the man who fled across the M2 motorway. Danny Lavery said the loyalist gang was heard shouting ``Up the RHD'' in reference to the Red Hand Defenders, who are active in the area and are responsible for the ongoing attacks on Catholic homes in the Graymount area.
On Tuesday night, April 6, two men from Carrick Hill were attacked by a gang of up to 20 loyalists in Carlisle Circus as they were walking to an off-licence at the bottom of the Antrim Road in North Belfast. The two men said the gang hurled bricks and bottles at them before they escaped into the off-licence.
Lavery said that sectarian attacks were increasing in the area and the RUC had no will to deal with it. He said: ``When loyalists feel under threat they resort to sectarianism and I believe David Trimble is responsible for creating this atmosphere.''
In other news from the same area, an irate Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast, has demanded an end to attacks on Protestants in Whitewell. Kelly said: ``My understanding is that a Protestant family was attacked in their home in the Whitewell on Friday night. This is a reprehensible act, following the example of the UDA, who have used similar tactics to intimidate many Catholics out of their homes. ``Those involved in such sectarian acts, no matter who they are, should stop immediately. People must be allowed to live where they choose without intimidation.''