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1 June 2000 Edition

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Loyalist terror in Ballynahinch

A nationalist resident of the County Down town of Ballynahinch came within inches of serious injury when a loyalist held a broken cider bottle to her face. ``You're lucky you're a fuckin' woman'', he said as he held her by the throat.

The incident happened last Friday, 26 May at 11.45pm, when a drunken loyalist mob rampaged through the town. One loyalist smashed the windscreen of the woman's car then danced on the bonnet.

The woman gave chase and it was at this point that she was grabbed and threatened. She managed to break free, returned home and called the RUC, who said they would be there, ``straight away''. But as she waited, the loyalists attacked her home and put a brick through her window. It was 25 minutes and several phone calls later before the RUC arrived, but by this stage the loyalists had left.

Before they had finished dealing with this woman, the RUC had to leave and deal with another case of sectarian harassment.

On Sunday 28 May, about 15 loyalists armed with planks of wood gathered in Ballynahinch. They linked up with another crowd gathered at a pub in the town square.

One of the gang, who was carrying a claw hammer, was on the point of assaulting a young nationalist when they spotted the woman whose car they attacked the previous Friday.

This distracted the loyalists, who were afraid the woman would recognise them and call the RUC, so they let the young nationalist go. They warned him however that they'd be back.

Mick Murphy, Sinn Féin Assembly member for South Down accused the RUC of giving the loyalists, `` a free run'', as it took them half an hour to arrive at the scene of the second incident.

``These most recent incidents illustrate how the RUC is giving loyalists a free hand in Ballynahinch,'' he said. ``I worry that as the marching season approaches we may see more attacks on nationalists unless people unite to tackle this problem of sectarianism.''
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