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16 September 1999 Edition

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Loyalists shoot 13-year-old girl

By Ned Kelly

A 13-YEAR-OLD GIRL who was shot in the stomach with a pellet gun and beaten with baseball bats by three loyalists from the White City area of North Belfast believed she was going to be killed.

Speaking to An Phoblacht, the girl, a pupil at Hazelwood integrated school, said that when the loyalists attacked her and held the gun to her head she was terrified. ``I didn't think for a second that it wasn't a real gun,'' she said.

During the terrifying attack, the girl was subjected to a constant stream of sectarian abuse.

The schoolgirl, who spoke to An Phoblacht with her parents and wishes to remain anonymous, was assaulted by the loyalists as she walked home from her grandmother's past a `peace wall' on the Serpentine Road in the Whitewell area on Wednesday evening, 8 September, at 6pm.

The loyalists grabbed her from behind by her pony-tail and put the gun to her head. The gunman then said, ``Nah, we're not that bad,'' before lowering the weapon and shooting her in the stomach. Luckily, the pellet didn't penetrate her clothing and only caused bruising.

The girl was then beaten around the ankles by another of her attackers before a third forced her to the ground. The three loyalists made their escape along Mulderg Drive. The girl suffered serious bruising where she was shot in the stomach and from the beating. She also suffered a sprained ankle. She was, however, able to give excellent descriptions of at least one of her assailants.

Reacting to the attack, her father said:

``These people hate us. They're brought up to hate us and this attack is nothing new to Catholics living here. There is no peace process down here. People are living in fear.''

Paul McKernon, a member of the local Greencastle Residents' Association, brought this An Phoblacht reporter past the spot where the assault occurred. He pointed to a 30-yard stretch of Serpentine Road running from a `peace wall' built less than 18 months ago to the junction of Serpentine Road and Serpentine Gardens. He stressed that the latest attack represents ``not an increase in sectarian attacks in the area but part of the ongoing campaign of intimidation that emanates from the loyalist White City''.

Across from the `peace wall' only one shop, a chemist, remains. Three others are boarded up and empty after loyalist threats and attacks forced them to close last year.

The house immediately opposite the `peace wall' gate is also boarded up and displays a `For Sale' sign. The occupants moved out over two months ago because of almost nightly attacks.

The house immediately below the `peace wall' as Serpentine Road curves down towards Serpentine Gardens bears the scars of earlier attacks, as does the house three doors up the other side of the `peace wall'.

The house at the junction of Serpentine Gardens and Serpentine Road has its front window boarded up - the result of a second attack in the last month.

``Cars are routinely stoned from behind the protection offered to loyalists from behind the `peace wall','' McKernon said. ``There have also been attacks on people walking past the interface area. In the last four weeks a taxi has been stopped and the car attacked. A young boy has been stabbed and another beaten up. A paper girl has been attacked as she delivered papers.''

There were three petrol-bomb attacks in Longlands Court, just the other side of the White City estate, at the beginning of the month, and there have been attacks in the nearby Glenhurst and Throne areas, as well as the well-documented campaign against Catholics living in the adjacent Graymount area.

The catalogue of sectarian attacks and intimidation has left nationalist residents in the greater Whitewell, Greencastle and Graymount areas asking just when will the situation change.

``The standard response from the RUC,'' said McKernon, ``is that they have to catch loyalists in the act - `red handed'. It is an excuse for doing nothing.''

McKernon was also critical of the lack of response from unionists and White City community groups. Local Ulster Unionist Councillor David Browne has claimed that the violence in the area ``is not one-sided'', a claim strongly denied by the Greencastle residents.

And when An Phoblacht contacted White City development worker Brian Dunne, he declined to comment, saying, ``I know nothing about it, I'm on holiday.''

According to Sinn Fein Councillor Danny Lavery, however, the campaign of attacks ``has clearly been orchestrated and the UDA have been involved up to their necks''.
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An Phoblacht
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