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22 June 2000 Edition

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UDA's renewed threat to Catholics

BY LAURA FRIEL

Masked and brandishing weaponry, the UDA renewed its armed threat against northern nationalist this week on the basis of a spurious allegation of ``a systematic and orchestrated campaign of intimidation from nationalists'' on members of the Protestant community in North and West Belfast.

In a statement read by loyalist paramilitaries during a press conference held at a secret location in Belfast on Tuesday, the UDA said ``From 12 o'clock tonight 20 June 2000 the UFF reserves the right to shoot any person seen to be attacking Protestants in North and West Belfast''.

The terror gang accused nationalists of ``ethnic cleansing'' which they said ``cannot and will not be allowed to happen''. Citing specific areas in Belfast, Old Park, Rosapenna Street, White City, Alliance and Limestone Road and Lanark Way, the UDA claimed ``pensioners in these areas are suffering the most''.

A statement from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive immediately refuted the UDA's claim of sectarian intimidation against the Protestant community.

During the recent feud between loyalist paramilitary groups, nationalists feared that, as in the past, the rivalry between the loyalist gangs would be played out through an upsurge in sectarian attacks against the Catholic community of the north. This week, that fear appears to have been realised.

According to Housing Executive records, there have been 21 recent cases of sectarian intimidation. All 21 cases have been of Catholic families forced to flee their homes after sectarian attacks and threats by loyalists. All have been in North Belfast. The Executive has no record of any Protestant family seeking rehousing on basis of sectarian intimidation in North or West Belfast.

Despite the peace process and cease fires by a number of loyalist terror groups, northern nationalist have experienced a sustained campaign of sectarian intimidation and violence by loyalists in recent years. The statistics speak for themselves.

Every month the Derry-based Pat Finucane Centre publishes a list of sectarian attacks. In 1999, the human rights watchdog recorded 8 loyalist grenade attacks on Catholic homes and property, 27 petrol bomb and arson attacks on Catholic homes, school and chapels, 6 gun attacks, including shots being fired at two Catholic schoolboys.

There were also 45 bomb attacks, mostly pipe bomb attacks on Catholic homes and including the car bomb attack which killed Rosemary Nelson and the pipe bomb attack which killed Elizabeth O Neill, a Protestant targeted because she was married to a Catholic.

A further 19 sectarian beatings by loyalist gangs are recorded, including a knife attack. Over 150 nationalist were also warned that they were being actively targeted by loyalist death squads.

In the same period the Pat Finucane Centre recorded arson attacks on five Orange Halls and six Protestant churches. Paint was thrown at a Protestant couple's home and a Shankill taxi driver was punched in the face and subjected to sectarian verbal abuse.

Last month the Pat Finucane Centre recorded a Catholic man being admitted into hospital after being badly beaten by a loyalist gang in Derry's Waterside. A Catholic family were forced to flee their home in Larne following a crossbow and nail bomb attack.

A loyalist mob almost kicked to death a Protestant footballer in the mistaken belief he was a Catholic. There was a sectarian attack on the home of a Catholic woman living in Clifton Park Avenue, an area of North Belfast where a large number of Catholic families were intimidated out during the last loyalist ``Tour of the North'' parade in 1998.

Catholic homes in the Springfield Road area of West Belfast were attacked by loyalist mobs wielding sledge hammers. Catholics in Ardoyne and Tyrone received bullets and death threats through the post.

A 200-strong masked loyalist gang attacked Catholic home in the Craigwell Avenue area of Portadown. Eighteen families from Craigwell Avenue have already been forced to flee following sectarian attacks by loyalists .

The homes of two Catholic school teachers were petrol bombed in South Belfast. A Catholic taxi driver was attacked in North Belfast. There were two kidnap attempts on Catholic school children in North Belfast and in the Springfield Road area.

In the same period, an attack by nationalist youths on three Ulster buses carrying loyalist bandsmen is recorded.
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