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10 August 2000 Edition

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Loyalists confront Sinn Féin protesters

Loyalists, some armed with cudgels, last week threatened a group of Sinn Féin activists protesting against discrimination in Newtownabbey council.

Martin Meehan, the party candidate for the vacant South Antrim Westminster seat, led the picket on Thursday 3 August. Meehan told An Phoblacht: ``This was a peaceful protest against discrimination yet these loyalists tried to intimidate us. They need to know that Sinn Féin is here to stay in South Antrim and that we won't be intimidated''.

According to Meehan, the loyalists gathered and began shouting abuse at the Sinn Féin group; some were wearing UVF hats. The RUC came on the scene yet took a low key attitude despite the fact the loyalists were brandishing baseball bats.

The picket was organised to focus attention on Newtownabbey Council, which has less than 15% of Catholics on it,s work force.


Bullet threat


A republican from South Belfast is fearful for his safety after loyalists sent a bullet to him in the post.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been threatened by loyalists before and says that he has also been told by the RUC in the past that his details are in the hands of loyalists.

Speaking to An Phoblacht, Sinn Féin's Sean Hayes said that this was the second such incident in the area recently. ``Over the weekend, two nationalists from the South Belfast area received bullets in the post,'' he said. ``One of the men has been threatened before and his details are in the hands of loyalists. It indicates that the threat posed by loyalists has not diminished and people should be careful.''

Meanwhile, Hayes has highlighted an incident in the Markets area of South Belfast in which an RUC member approached children in an attempt to get information about local republicans.

``The RUC member has been asking children about local republicans but more sinister is the fact that he has been asking about youth workers in the area as well''.

Hayes said that parents whose children were questioned by this RUC man are consulting their solicitors about the situation.

``I would urge parents to be on their guard against this man approaching their children.''


Loyalist abduction attempt


A North Belfast nationalist was lucky to escape with his life after loyalists tried to abduct him.

The incident happened at about 4.30am on Monday morning 7 August when the man and his wife were returning from a night out at the Ardoyne Fleadh.

A blue Astra car stopped at the corner of the Limestone Road and four men jumped out. They grabbed the man and set about him with cudgels as his wife ran to get help. The loyalists then tried to force the man into their car but he fortunately managed to escape and run home.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly in a statement criticised the RUC saying that despite an RUC patrol being in the area, ``they, amazingly, are saying they saw nothing''.


Catholic man attacked with meat cleaver


A Catholic man from Ballynahinch had a narrow escape from death when a gang of loyalists attacked him with a meat cleaver at the weekend.

Trevor O'Brien was walking home on Sunday night, 6 August, when the attack happened.

The gang of up to a dozen people, including some teenage girls, set upon the man in the Hillcrest area of the County Down town. O'Brien was hit across the head with the meat cleaver and received seven staples in the wound.

One of the gang had identified O'Brien and shouted ``he's a fucking fenian''. At this point, the gang attacked O'Brien and tried to beat him to the ground, but he managed to free himself.

The father of six says he is now terrified about walking the streets of Ballynahinch.

``In the past six months there has been an increase in loyalists attacks in the Ballynahinch area'', stated Sinn Féin's Mick Murphy. ``They have been happening in and around the the town centre as these loyalists feel they can get away with it. Nationalists need to be on their guard''.


Youth injured at Portadown flash point


Up to 50 loyalists staged pickets at flash point areas of Portadown on Wednesday, 2 August.

In an incident at Craigwell Avenue, one of the most notorious flashpoint areas in the town, loyalists stoned nationalist houses. A youth was struck by a missile during the incident and was treated in hospital.

This was the first time in a long while that loyalists had been involved in this type of protest and Breandán Mac Cionnaith of the Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition accused the loyalists of ``deliberately heightening tension as part of their campaign to march along the Garvaghy Road from Drumcree church''.

In a statement, the RUC said that while they were aware of the pickets, none of their officers saw the stone throwing incident.


CRJ to host open day


Community Restorative Justice activists are holding an open day as part of this year's Féile an Phobail.

CRJ offices throughout Belfast will open their doors to the public to allow people to ``come and see for ourselves what we are about'', says Tommy Holland, the coordinator of the Upper Springfield Group. Speaking to An Phoblacht, he said that the group, ``which more or less piloted the CRJ programme initially for Belfast and now throughout the North, is now dealing with hundreds of cases involving hundreds of people''.

Holland will also appear on Féile's Triple FM Radio station on Thursday morning with Harry Mika, an American who has studied the whole concept of community justice and works closely with the CRJ in Ireland.

``The programme will be about giving out information and hopefully we will get a good feed back with people phoning in to ask questions. We are promoting our Community Charter as well during the day and we what people interested as the charter is about getting people to work collectively as they attempt to deal with the social problems that beset our communities''.

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