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19 October 2000 Edition

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Lucky escape in loyalist car bomb attack

A Catholic man and his two sons narrowly escaped death and serious injury when a pipe bomb exploded under a seat in their car. The man and two teenagers had only moments to escape before the booby trap bomb exploded into a ball of fire, destroying the vehicle.

The family believe the device could have been planted up to 24 hours earlier after the vehicle was left unattended in the loyalist Tynedale estate. Children who had been passengers in the Isuzu Trooper complained of petrol fumes but it wasn't until the following day that the bomb was discovered. On Saturday night in West Belfast, the man was taking his two teenage sons for a driving lesson and as they adjusted the driver's seat they spotted an obstruction. The device consisted of a glass container with a pipe attached to it. When the man touched the device it started to fizz. He shouted a warning to his sons and all three ran for cover as the device exploded. The vehicle, which burst into flames, was gutted and a large hole was blown in the floor of the Trooper. The family believe the car was targeted simply because they were Catholics.

Meanwhile the home of an elderly couple living in North Belfast was attacked for the 18th time in six months. In a 20-minute barrage, over 60 stones and bricks were thrown at the couple's Mountainview Park house, smashing windows and terrorising the elderly occupants.

Larry McIIroy (66), who suffers from angina, criticised the RUC, who took over half an hour to arrive at the scene. ``At my time of life, I don't need this,'' he said.

Ardoyne Sinn Féin Councillor Mick Conlon said UDA elements were trying to instigate some kind of reaction at that flashpoint. `` Whenever the UDA are not busy fighting with other loyalists, they turn their attention to Catholic areas,'' he said.

St. Olcan's Catholic primary school in Armoy County Antrim has become the latest in a series of sectarian arson attacks on Catholic schools. The fire, which was started in the earlier hours of Wednesday morning, caused damage to the assembly hall and smoke damage throughout the building.

The damage could have been far worse had it not been for the swift action of a local man who heard the alarm bell from his bedroom and alerted the fire service. Education Minister Martin McGuinness confirmed that the school, which has 65 pupils, would have to close for repairs. ``Malicious attacks such as these only divert scarce resources from within the education budget which could be put to much better use,'' said the minister.

Loyalists are believed to be behind a sectarian arson attack on a GAA club in County Antrim last week. The Roger Casement GAC in Portglenone has been targeted three times in the last year. In the latest attack, scorch damage was discovered at the front of the building when members arrived for training. Minor smoke damage was also cause to the kitchen and changing rooms.


Sectarian attack in Keady condemned



Sinn Féin Keady Councillor Brian Cunningham has condemned an attack on a Presbyterian family as they left a bible reading class held in a local Orange Hall. An 18-month-old baby escaped serious injury but suffered cuts to his arms and legs when a large stone was dropped from a height, smashing the car windscreen.

``We are not certain who is engaging in this behaviour,'' said Cunningham, ``but we believe it to be young people.'' The attack followed a number of incidents in which cars parked outside the Orange Hall were damaged.


Adams demands demilitarisation



On Wednesday, 18 October, Gerry Adams visited South Armagh and met with the South Armagh Farmeers and Residents Committee. Speaking to the media at the Glassdrummond Hilltop Fort, Adams said: ``The British government has failed to grasp the imperative of the Good Friday Agreement on the issue of demilitarisation or to honour the commitments it made on this matter in may at Hillsborough. What is needed is a radical programme with public timetables for the demilitarisation of the South Armagh area.''

He added that ``the statistics of occupation and the minimalist approach to this matter, especially in the South Armagh area, by the British government, is evidence of the strength of the securocrats and generals who are dictating British policy on this issue''. He criticised th British government for failing to produce a published overall strategy for demilitarisation which was promised over two years ago.

The previous weekend, Toni Carragher of the South Armagh Farmers and Residents Committee attended the annual Irish American Unity Conference (IAUC) in Detroit, Michigan, to speak about the ongoing British/RUC military build up in South Armagh, despite the IRA cessation and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

Two retired American Army Generals were amongst a recent IAUC delegation by to South Armagh to evaluate British compliance with the Good Friday Agreement in relation to demilitarisation. The delegation reported an increased operational presence by the British military and RUC, which included the refurbishment of a number of military bases in the area.

Endorsing the resolution, the IAUC called on the British government to honour its commitment to demilitarise throughout the North of Ireland, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Meanwhile, Craigavon, County Tyrone, Sinn Féin Councillor Francie Murray has said that the continuing military patrolling of Lurgan and Craigavon by the British Army flies in the face of the Good Friday Agreement. The councillor was speaking after another week of heavy patrolling, which included helicopter activity over Brownlow and Derrymacash areas.

``Monday was a day of roadblocks around the town and on Tuesday it was foot patrols through Meadowbrook and Drumbeg estates,'' said Murray. ``On Thursday, a 20-strong RIR patrol made its way through the town along Edward Street and in the evening foot patrols in the Meadowbrook estate hurled sectarian abuse at local children, while an RUC mobile patrol took photographs of local residents.''

Saturday was another day of heavy patrolling, with foot patrols and mobile patrols around the town all day. ``This patrolling is completely unacceptable,'' said Murray. ``Indeed, it has become so bad that one local resident commented that he now knows what South Armagh has to put up with.''


Mural to Hunger Striker unveiled



Bernadette McDonnell, daughter of 1981 Hunger Striker Joe McDonnell, unveiled a new mural in memory of her father on Sunday, 15 October.

Joe's family, including his grandchildren, his mother, and brothers and sisters attended in the unveiling, as did many of his former H Block comrades.

Sinn Féin councillor Gerard O'Neill chaired the ceremony and announced the formation of 1981 Committees throughout Ireland. ``These committees are being formed to organise events to remember the Hunger Strike year,'' he said, ``and we should also remember that the Hunger Strike year began with the first H Block hunger strike which began in October 1980.''

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