22 April 1999 Edition
Garda News hails RUC chief
The Garda News, magazine of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, gives an alarming insight into the thinking of many in that force. The October/November 1998 issue referred to gardai ``working like blacks''. This was compounded by an `apology' in the following issue of the magazine which referred to the ``pompous politically correct person in Trinity College'' who made the complaint.
It seems that the editorial staff at Garda News are slow learners. In the current edition they include this little `joke': ``We are all walking on metaphorical eggshells in this age of PC, so full marks to the member who came up with the following when attempting to refer to a member of the itinerant class: `This man is a traveller - but not of the commercial variety!'''
It is very appropriate, therefore, that the current Garda News also has an interview with RUC Chief Ronnie Flanagan. The magazine hit the streets at the time of the murder of Rosemary Nelson. While the United Nations, the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament all added to the international disrepute of the RUC, the gallant Garda News rode to the rescue with a sycophantic article by editor Austin Kenny. Flanagan was not, of course, asked about collusion or shoot-to-kill, threats to solicitors or plastic bullets. The only remotely critical question was the following: ``The RUC has been accused in a perjorative sense, of engaging in a `charm offensive' but Mr Flanagan again rejected any unwarranted implications in the reference.''
The irony of that question is lost on the Garda News staff, who could never be accused of having a sense of humour. The whole Garda News article is a perfect example of Flanagan's continuing charm offensive, which is rapidly becoming a rearguard action as opposition to the RUC grows.
More Antrim attacks
Two loyalist pipe-bomb attacks in Randalstown, County Antrim, on Wednesday, 14 April, are the latest in a long list of sectarian attacks against Catholics. This continuing campaign ``amounts to nothing short of a sectarian pogrom against Catholics in the South Antrim since the beginning of the year'', said the area's Sinn Féin representative, Martin Meehan.
In the latest attacks, devices were pushed through the letterboxes of two Catholic homes. These attacks come after the appearance of UVF graffiti threatening Catholics close to one of the houses which was attacked.
Meehan told An Phoblacht: ``For some time now, there has been a concerted sectarian campaign to force nationalists out of the Randalstown area. Last night's double attack is a sinister escalation of this campaign.''
He also criticised the muted response of leading unionist politicians, saying that it ``sends a negative message to nationalists with regard to their commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict''.
These two attacks bring the tally of gun, bomb, petrol bomb attacks, attempted abductions, threats and assaults carried out by loyalists against nationalists to almost 100 for this year alone. This does not include those suffering from nightly loyalist attacks and harassment in areas such as the Garvaghy Road.
Sinn Féin man gets death threat
Loyalists in South Down have threatened to kill a senior Sinn Féin representative from the area.
Garret O'Fachtna, who stood for the party in both the Assembly and Westminster elections, received a bullet in the post last Friday, 16 April. Accompanying the 9mm bullet was a photo of the Sinn Féin man which had a target drawn over his face and the warning: ``Bang, bang you're dead - RHD''.
The photo was taken from a 1998 Assembly election leaflet. O'Fachtna, who has already survived a number of attempts on his life, found the threat when he returned from attending the party's Ard Comhairle meeting in Dublin last Friday evening.
Catholic family attacked
The systematic sectarian campaign to drive Catholic families out of vulnerable areas of North Belfast continued this week with a pipe-bomb attack on a Catholic family's home on Monday, 19 April.
A newsroom received a telephone call which claimed that a pipe bomb had been left in the Serpentine area of Greencastle. A search ensued, and at around 7pm, the occupant of a house in Serpentine Park found the bomb at the side of his house.
The attack was claimed by the Red Hand Defenders, although it is thought that the UDA which strong in the area is using the name as a flag of convenience.
Sinn Féin North Belfast Assembly member Gerry Kelly said the attack was ``part of the loyalist campaign to drive Catholics out of that area''.
Kelly also accused Ulster Unionist First Minister David Trimble and DUP leader Ian Paisley of ``being silent in the face of these attacks yet demanding guns that are silent be handed in''.