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18 May 2000 Edition

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Portadown loyalists attack nationalist homes

Up to 200 masked loyalists attacked the homes of nationalists living along Craigwell Avenue in Portadown on Tuesday night, 16 May.

The loyalists assembled at Carlton Street Orange Hall, the headquarters of Portadown LOL No1, the lodge involved in the Drumcree stand-off, and then made their way to Craigwell.

An Phoblacht was told the loyalists had gathered at the Orange Hall before going on a flying picket but when they arrived at Craigwell, a nationalist street linking the loyalist Corcrain Road to nationalist Obins Street, they went on the rampage.

Loyalists threw missiles at homes along the street and shouted sectarian abuse at residents.

A number of RUC jeeps were on the scene yet those inside, reminiscent of the killing of Robert Hamill, refused to intervene.

When nationalist representatives, including Breandán Mac Cionnaith, arrived on the scene and challenged the RUC to disperse the loyalists, they were told, ``they will disperse in their own good time''.

The junction between Craigwell Avenue and Corcrain Road has been the focus of loyalist disruption and attacks over a number of years and since the Drumcree stand-off the tension has escalated.

The intimidation of nationalist residents is ongoing and up to 18 families have already moved out. RUC man Frankie O'Reilly was killed by a loyalist pipe bomb thrown during an Orange protest on Corcrain Road. Elizabeth O'Neill died in a sectarian pipe bomb attack on her home just a few hundred yards away.

Speaking to An Phoblacht, Sinn Féin Assembly member for Upper Bann Dara O'Hagan said: ``The Orange Order organises these pickets; they must accept responsibility for the actions of those taking part.

``Mass loyalist assaults on the Garavghy Road community highlights the on-going daily threat posed to nationalists in the area. The violence towards and the violation of the rights of the Garvaghy Road community is a clear consequence of Orange Order tactics.''

Meanwhile Breandán Mac Cionnaith, who spoke to An Phoblacht prior to meeting the parades commission, said that ``serious questions must be asked about the RUC's inaction against those engaged in this sectarian and intimidatory behaviour.

``Irish government officials are now to raise last night's incident with the British,'' he said.
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