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17 June 1999 Edition

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Kilkeel nationalists attacked by loyalists and RUC

BY Roisin Cox

Nationalists in Kilkeel, County Down are accusing the RUC of colluding with loyalists in carrying out a brutal attack on residents in the town on Friday 11 June.

The frightening assault on the nationalist residents took place at three bars, Jacob Hall's, Ritchie's and the Arch Ways Bar on Newry Street when gangs of loyalists, who had earlier taken part in a Mourne Residents for Justice (MRJ) march through Kilkeel town centre, attacked the bars with bottles and stones.

During the attack, which was well planned, according to those nationalists who spoke to An Phoblacht, the loyalists hurled sectarian abuse at the nationalists. They shouted, ```Fenian bastards ... burn the place down'. Most of the loyalists wore hate t-shirts with the slogans I hate Catholics' and `KAT - Kill all Taigs and aimed imaginary rifles at the nationalists'', we were told.

Local woman Isobel McCabe was coming out of Jacob Hall's bar in the town centre when she was attacked by an RUC woman who repeatedly hit her with a baton, leaving her with heavy bruising to both her arm and shoulder.

``The RUC member who attacked me is known locally as Jacqui and she only stopped her vicious attack when other RUC members told her to back off''.

Isobel described the attack as totally unprovoked and told An Phoblacht that the RUC will always take the easy option in Kilkeel beating Catholics rather than tackling the root of the problem- Loyalist thuggery and intimidation.

Friday's trouble flared when gangs of loyalists, mostly from Portadown and who were in Kilkeel for the MRJ march and a function at which the loyalist band Platoon were playing, went on the rampage.

Platoon is noted for its crude sectarian songs and glorification of loyalist gunmen.

Local residents who were in Ritchie's bar said that the proprietor phoned the RUC during the attack on his premises but they failed to respond immediately.

Said another witness: ``It took them 25 minutes to respond to a call made from the Arch Ways bar, which is approximately 40 yards from the RUC station.''

Residents who contacted the RUC following the attack also poured scorn on RUC claims that they had no evidence of the attack ``as there was no video tape in the camera outside the RUC station which could have recorded the events on Newry Street on Friday night''.

The RUC explained that this was an ``oversight'', yet disturbances involving nationalists in Kilkeel have previously been clearly recorded.

Those who spoke to An Phoblacht complained that the commercial centre of Kilkeel is bedecked with loyalist flags and banners. The town, which has a 40% nationalist population, is dominated by loyalist thugs intent on intimidating Catholic residents.

Nationalist residents are now living with a strong LVF presence in the town and the RUC turning a blind eye to the activities of these loyalists gangs, and there are fears that ``a situation like the murder of Robert Hamill will occur''.

These fears are heightened by the MRJ, which intends to hold marches through Kilkeel on a weekly basis in the build up to Drumcree and in support of Portadown Orangemen.

Orange parades which go through Kilkeel are being facilitated by the RUC, who let them through the commercial centre of Kilkeel and to continue on to the Hillside Drive and Close area, which is 90% Catholic.

``This is not a traditional route, has only been walked recently and is clearly a further attempt at intimidation,'' concluded a local man.
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