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25 January 2001 Edition

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UDP split as loyalist violence continues

BY LAURA FRIEL

Nationalists will be watching closely the effect of the UDP split, especially as the UDA have been involved in orchestrating and carrying out attacks on Catholics in recent months, said Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey.

The party chief whip was commenting after the Ulster Democratic Party, the loyalist party closely associated with the UDA, announced that a quarter of its ruling body had quit over the peace process. The defections came from branches in areas where there has been an upsurge in a loyalist campaign of sectarian violence, Larne, Coleraine, Ballymoney, Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus.

``For months now, the UDA have been orchestrating and carrying out attacks on Catholics,'' said Maskey. ``Clearly, many elements of the UDA organisation are firmly in the `No' camp and have rejected the peace process.'' The news that the UDP has split wide open over support for the Good Friday Agreement will cause concern for many, he said.

The UDP, under the leadership of Gary McMichael, was established in 1989. Recently, McMichael suggested that he may be forced to stand down if his party withdraws support for the peace process.

Maskey said that the split could not be divorced from the ongoing attacks in North and East Antrim and the involvement of the UDA in these.

``I would urge nationalists to remain vigilant,'' said Maskey, ``if history tells us anything it is that internal loyalist disputes often result in attacks on Catholics.''

Predictably, within hours of the UDP announcement, further sectarian attacks on the homes of Catholic families took place. In Ardoyne, North Belfast, the home of former republican POW Martin Óg Meehan, was attacked in the early hours of Wednesday morning, 24 January.

No one was injured when two shots from a powerful handgun were fired at the house. One bullet smashed through the living room window. Two children, a three-year-old boy and four-week-old infant girl, were in the house at the time.

The attack took place within hours of a warning to the family by the RUC of an imminent loyalist threat. The RUC arrived at the Meehan home around 8pm on the night of the attack. Martin Óg was told that there was a serious threat to his life but the RUC officer refused to disclose further details.

No getaway car was heard, indicating that the gunmen felt confident enough to walk into the cul de sac where the Meehan family live. Despite the RUC's knowledge of the loyalist threat to the family, the attack proceeded unhindered by the RUC.

This is the third time the family has been targeted by loyalists. The RUC arrived after the attack and informed them that it had been carried out by the Red Hand Defenders. ``The RHD is a cover name used by the UDA,'' said Meehan. ``For some reason the RUC persist in providing cover for the UDA.''

In a second loyalist attack in North Belfast, a bomb was thrown at a house in Lothair Avenue, of the Limestone Road. The device exploded and there was blast damage to the house but no one was injured.

On the same night, in the County Derry village of Garvagh, pipe bombs were thrown at two houses. A third device was discovered some time later. There were no injuries. One of the houses to be targeted was the home of a 70-year-old pensioner.

Meanwhile, an upsurge in sectarian violence in the nearby town of Coleraine has led local people to claim that the County Derry town is a ``second Larne''. In the past few months, there have been over 100 sectarian attacks, 30 of which have been described as serious, including attacks on two Catholic-owned pubs.

And a Catholic mother of two living in Randalstown, Co. Antrim is living in fear after her Neilsbrook estate home was visited by loyalists who threatened the family. Four men, some of who were masked but none armed, identified themselves as members of the UVF and told the terrified resident, ``get out or you're dead''.

Later, youths passing the threatened woman in a car shouted sectarian abuse. Commenting on the incident, Sinn Féin's Martin Meehan described the woman, who does not wish to be identified, as ``absolutely terrified''.

Meehan said there had been an undercurrent of sectarian intimidation for over two years against Catholics living in the mixed Neilsbrook estate. He said he did not believe the men who issued the threat were from the UVF but were most likely dissident loyalists using the unstable peace process to intimidate Catholics from their homes.

In Larne, a Catholic pensioner narrowly escaped injury when bricks were hurled through the living room window of his home as he sat watching television. The attack took place shortly before 7pm on Monday night in Linn Road in the mixed Craigyhill estate.

A few minutes later, the windows of the pensioner's daughter's home were smashed. This was the second time the home of the 27-year-old mother of two had been attacked by loyalists in two weeks. Earlier, loyalists had sprayed the family's home with gunfire. The family has subsequently left their home. Windows were also smashed in a third house in Lealies Drive, Antiville.

A three-year-old Catholic child became the latest target in the loyalist vendetta against the Shaw family in Larne. The mother of young Martina Shaw was forced to withdraw her daughter from playschool after they were targeted by loyalists while travelling to and from school.

The family has been repeatedly targeted by loyalists and may be forced into withdrawing their other children from attending school, following intimidation. Both of the family' eldest sons, aged 11 and 15, have been beaten by loyalist gangs.

The attack followed within days of the then Secretary of State Peter Mandelson's visit to the town, which he described as in danger of becoming a ``sectarian ghetto''.

Two public houses owned by a Catholic in Ballymena were targeted for attack earlier this week. A pipe bomb was thrown at the Slemish Bar on William Street at about 10.30pm last Wednesday.

A man wearing a green hood was seen attempting to thrown the device through a window. The bar was evacuated but the device failed to explode. The second attack took place in Ahoghill in the previous week. A device was left on the windowsill of the Diamond Bar but did not explode.

 

Dunmurry poster a prelude to attacks



BY LAURA FRIEL

A UDA poster claiming that there has been a ``spate of sectarian attacks on Protestant people'' in the Dunmurry area of West Belfast is being viewed by nationalists as a scurrilous attempt to heighten tensions as a prelude to further loyalist attacks on Catholic families in the area.

``There are elements within loyalism that are going to use this as a justification,'' said local Sinn Féin councillor Paul Butler. ``My fear now is that this is what is happening in relation to Dunmurry village.''

A similar ploy was used by UDA leader Johnny Adair last summer when he claimed Protestant homes in North Belfast had been attacked. Adair's tactic was exposed when the Housing Executive released statistics which showed only Catholic families had been intimidated.

The poster, which bears the insignia of the UDA and is entitled ``Public Notice'', dismisses media reports of sectarian attacks against Catholics which it claims are ``one sided'' while ``tensions in the Dunmurry area are being deliberately stoked up by republican elements''.

Significantly, the poster's claim of ``a spate of attacks'' is somewhat belied by the admission of the author that the UDA, euphemistically known as ``local community activists'', has no record of any attacks, and apparently, neither has the RUC.

It is vital, says the poster, that ``if you or any member of your family are subjected to attack'' that it is ``reported as soon as possible to the local RUC so that a full and accurate record of all such attacks is maintained. It should also be ``reported to local community activists so that they too have such a record.''

It's all a kind of loyalist double think; the UDA has no record of any attack against Protestants in Dunmurry but attacks on Protestants must be taking place because why else would the UDA be out ``defending'' their community by attacking Catholics. The only logical explanation therefore must be that attacks on Protestants are not being reported.

Unless, of course, there are no attacks.

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