8 February 2001 Edition
Anti-Catholic pogrom continues
UDA ceasefire over
When asked about the welcome given by Derry nationalists to the British soldiers deployed in the Bogside after the riots of 1969, Eamon McCann points out that far from the soldiers seeing themselves as the saviours of Derry nationalists, they had bayonets fixed to rifles that they were pointing into the Bogside.
And anyone who witnessed the arrival of the British Army then will also remember that one of the first tasks the soldiers carried out was to erect barbed wire fencing and restrict access to the city centre from the Bogside.
It is therefore with deja vú that we view the ``deployment'' of the British Army in North Belfast this week and ask just who they are protecting.
In the past two weeks North Belfast has seen an upsurge in loyalist violence with both bomb and gun attacks launched against numerous nationalist families.
And in a particularly vicious attack in the New Lodge area loyalists threw an incendiary bomb into the home of a family of five. The explosion engulfed the dwelling in minutes but luckily the family escaped uninjured.
In the face of these attacks the crown forces have been extremely tardy in their reactions and it is with no small degree of cynicism that nationalists will view this return to patrolling on the part of the British Army. This is especially so as the attacks in North Belfast are being carried out by the UDA's `C' compoany, effectively set up by British covert operatives and literally riddled with informers. Given that the UDA has long been fed information by the RUC, further patrolling on the part of the crown forces will not allay nationalist fears or suspicions
Moreover, these crown forces patrols are mostly taking place in nationalist areas and are being seen as a further provocation of those communities.
The RUC, having informed numerous of those North Belfast residents who were targeted that their lives were under threat, have done little to prevent the attacks.
For nationalists throughout the North, the UDA ceasefire does not exist. And thoughout this latest campaign of terror, mainstream unionist politicians have remained silent. The Ulster Unionist Party has a direct responsibility here. David Trimble and UDP representatives have walked into negotiations side by side, the UUP helped elect the UDP's Frank McCoubrey as deputy mayor of Belfast. Trimble & Co. cannot pretend that the attacks are not happening nor that they have no influence.
To highlight the threat faced by Northern nationalists, Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly is to lead a delegation of people from these areas to meet Dublin Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen in Leinster House today, Thursday, 8 February.
Said Kelly: ``The Dublin government has a responsibility for citizens living in the North. I will be impressing upon Mr Cowen the importance of his role in bringing pressure to bear on the British government to bring an end to these attacks. It has to be remembered that the UDA was established by British intelligence 30 years ago and that it, through groups like FRU and the RUC Special Branch have armed, trained and directed elements within the UDA throughout that time.''
Martin Meehan targeted as loyalist attacks continue
BY LAURA FRIEL
Over 40 loyalist pipe bomb attacks in as many days and everyone knows it is only a matter of time before someone else is killed. Photographs of the fire-gutted home of a young Catholic family in the New Lodge area of North Belfast after a loyalist pipe bomb attack this week graphically illustrate the lethal potential of this crude sectarian weapon.
Three young children, asleep in their beds at the time of the attack, escaped the fate of the Quinn children of Ballymoney, who cried as they were burnt alive in a similar loyalist attack on their home in 1998, but it was luck rather than design that spared the lives of these latest targets of loyalist terror.
And the attacks continue.
Around midnight on Sunday and a pipe bomb explosion had almost wiped out an entire family when a fire caused by the explosion engulfed their New Lodge home. Just 24 hours later another North Belfast family, this time in Ardoyne, were forced to flee their home after being targeted in another loyalist pipe bomb attack. Two adults and three children aged from a year to 15 were uninjured when a device discovered in a plant pot outside the living room window failed to explode. The father of three discovered the pipe bomb as he was preparing to drive his children to school on Monday morning.
The attack took place several days after the man, a taxi driver, was warned by the RUC that he was being targeted by loyalists. The family said they would not be returning to their home.
On Tuesday night there were five separate loyalist attacks in the North. In Larne, shots were fired through the kitchen window of the home of a Catholic family living in the Seacourt estate.
Catholic families living in the estate have been repeatedly targeted by loyalists over the last year and many have been force to flee. The family targeted in this latest attack was the last Catholic family living in the street.
A Catholic family living in the predominantly Protestant Fountain estate of Derry City have left their home after being targeted by loyalists in a pipe bomb attack. Around 1am, a device was thrown at the home of a Catholic couple and three children in George Street. The device partially exploded. The family were asleep in the house at the time of the attack but escaped injury.
Sinn Féin Councillor Marion Hutcheon described the attack as "another graphic indication of the ease with which loyalists can carry out sectarian attacks with impunity."
A gun attack on a house in Bushmills on the same night is also believed to be sectarian. This latest incident follows a number of attacks on the homes of Catholics in the area. A man in his 40s was unhurt when shots were fired at hids Dunluce Road house. Two more bullets were fired through the front door.
Meanwhile, a pipe bomb attack in Lurgan on the Tuesday is believed to be part of the ongoing loyalist feud and a gun attack in which one man was injured by broken glass in Castlerobin Road in the predominantly Protestant Belvoir estate has also been linked to loyalist feuding.
SEVEN ATTACKS ON MEEHANS IN 10 DAYS
Last week, North Belfast republican Martin Meehan was singled out for further loyalist attack. In the last ten days, members of the Meehan family have been attacked or threatened seven times.
In the early hours of 24 January shots were fired in to the home of Meehan's eldest son, Martin Óg. Eight hours earlier the RUC had warned the family of an imminent loyalist attack. Two bullets were fired on hitting the chimney breast, the other lodged into the front door. A few days later and the scenario was repeated but this time Meehan's younger son Kevin was the loyalists' target. On Sunday, four hours after the RUC had visited the home of Kevin Meehan to warn him that his life was in serious danger, loyalists launched a gun attack on the house. Three shots were fired. The Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by the UDA, later claimed responsibility for the attack. Hours after the RUC examined the scene of the attack Kevin found a bullet casing on the stairs of the house. Martin Meehan senior said the RUC must have picked it up outside and dropped it in the house.
Four days later and Martin senior was being actively targeted. The RUC arrived at his Ardoyne home on Thursday to inform him that loyalists were planning to assassinate him within 24 hours. The RUC said the threat should be taken seriously. And, as is their usual style, the RUC then departed, leaving the family to take what precautions they could.
A few hours later, the RUC returned, claiming that loyalists had telephoned a warning that two explosive devices had been planted at the back of Meehan's house. No devices were found but a loaded revolver, lying at the foot of a nearby wall, was discovered.
Initially, local people suspected that the weapon, rather than dropped in a moment of panic, may have been deliberately left to support a spurious claim by UDP spokesperson John White that the ongoing attacks were not the work of the UDA but that republicans were targeting themselves.
As one North Belfast resident recalled in 1969 when a "whole street of Catholic were burnt out", unionist politicians also suggested then that nationalists were burning their own homes. "They're still attacking us and telling the same lies."
It was later revealed that the gun was a Webley .45 revolver and contained two live rounds. The weapon has been linked to the earlier shootings at the homes of Meehan's two sons, which have been linked to the UDA.
Meanwhile, loyalists are being blamed for a pipe bomb attack on a Catholic-owned bar in County Antrim. Customers at the Whitecliff Inn, Whitehead escaped injury when a device failed to explode after being thrown at the premises last Friday night, 2 February.
On Thursday, 1 February, Catholic families living in Ballynahinch narrowly escaped injury when a pipe bomb was thrown through a window in Loughside Drive. A second device exploded ten minutes later.
North Belfast home gutted
Family lucky to escape
BY CAÍTLIN DOHERTY
The radio said that another pipe bomb had exploded in the New Lodge area of North Belfast. The BBC presenter said that a fire ensued.
Not a word was mentioned about the fact that the house had been gutted from top to bottom. Not a word on the fact that every single piece of furniture was reduced to ashes. Not a word about how three children in the house would have died in the blaze if neighbours hadn't come to their rescue, as their father was trapped by the flames in another part of the house.
No, there had been forty pipe bomb attacks in recent weeks and this one was just another one.
On Sunday morning, as the couple and children surveyed the damage; nothing was left of their home. The house where the two adults had started to plan their wedding was gutted from top to bottom. The sofa was reduced to a black frame. Burnt frames and photos of smiling children lay in ashes, spread in a jungle of debris.
During the night, the glass had been broken to ensure that the bomb would not bounce off the window. The device, containing an incendiary accelerant, was thrown in. It went off within seconds. After the first explosion, there was a second that blew off the inside doors. A fireball tore through the house, gutting it.
The father, trapped at one end of the house, couldn't go to the rescue of his children, who were in their bedrooms. If it hadn't been for the neighbours rushing to the scene, three children, aged 10 months to 14 years, would now be dead.
The attack has sent shock waves throughout the Six Counties. The type of bomb used and the fact that it was an incendiary device shows how the loyalist murder squads have now set out to wipe out entire families.
According to nationalist political representatives, the attack marks a clear escalation in the sectarian campaign carried out by elements of the UDA. It is now more evident than ever that the loyalist paramilitaries are not trying to merely intimidate Catholic residents. The UDA, as the New Lodge attack has shown, is intent on wiping out entire families.
In an alarming trend, the media has tried to play down the number of attacks and the damage they are causing. The mainstream media has also attempted to turn a blind eye to the fact that pipe bomb attacks are a blatant attempt to murder and wipe out innocent Catholic families.
Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast, says there is no doubt that the UDA is behind the attacks in North Belfast and other areas in the Six Counties, such as Coleraine, Larne and Ballymena.
``I think part of it is that they are looking for republicans to react and I think that republicans have been exceptionally disciplined throughout this period and I would hope and believe that they would continue in that vein,'' he said.
``But is more than that. It is someone going out to kill Catholics because they believe somewhere in their minds that they can intimidate Catholics, republicans and nationalists. They have tried for 30 years and this organisation has no other reason to be in existence other than to kill Catholics. It will not work. This generation of republicans and nationalists will not accept it.''
The New Lodge family is currently homeless and recovering from the trauma of last Sunday's assassination attempt.
Catholic families bombed in Ballynahinch
BY PEADER WHELAN
Two Catholic families living in the Loughside area of Ballynahinch, County Down, were the target of sectarian bombers in the early hours of Thursday morning, 1 February.
The attacks occurred just a week after human rights campaigner, Fr Joe McVeigh, warned Dublin government officials that it was ``only a matter of time'' before loyalists would be using pipe bombs in Ballynahinch.
The bombings, the latest in a sustained series of attacks on nationalists in Ballynahinch, ``could have killed or badly injured any of 11 people living in the houses'', explained local Sinn Féin representative Francie Braniff.
According to Braniff, the devices were set to go off ten minutes apart, with the first designed to explode and draw neighbours out so they would be caught in the blast of the second bomb hidden beneath a neighbour's car just two doors away.
Mrs Madine, whose house was the first to be bombed, said the family was asleep at the time the explosion occurred but believes the attack on her home was ``indiscriminate'' and, ``without reason''.
Neighbours also criticised the RUC attitude to those targeted.
One man who spoke to An Phoblacht said that when the RUC arrived on the scene, after the bombs went off, they refused to search under the car where the explosion occurred. One RUC man told the owner, ``sure you looking under it is as good as me looking under it''.
Meanwhile, speaking to An Phoblacht, Fr Joe McVeigh, who the previous week led a delegation to meet representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs from Dublin, said the attack showed that ``loyalists in Ballynahinch are determined to continue their campaign of violence against nationalists''.
The meeting with the Dublin officials, which included residents from Ballynahinch and Sinn Féin representatives Aiden Carlin, Mick Murphy and Francie Braniff, was to present the consultative document Charter for Change to Dublin.
``The document is designed to open up debate on the amount of sectarianism in Ballynahinch and appeals to unionists, politicians and community workers as well as nationalists to work together to end `the nationalist nightmare in Ballynahinch,'' said McVeigh.
The delegation also presented the Dublin officials with a dossier of up to 30 loyalist attacks on nationalists, their homes and property over the past seven months.
Francie Braniff said that a copy of the charter would be sent to ``residents, community groups, voluntary organisations, statutory agencies, religious leaders and key figures in the town.
``We want the Charter to begin a process that will begin with measures designed to facilitate political expression in the town. Equality of treatment must be realised. There must be effective monitoring of equality of opportunity in employment in Ballynahinch.''
Mater files used to target North Belfast Catholics?
BY CAITLIN DOHERTY
Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast, Gerry Kelly, has called for an urgent internal investigation at Belfast's Mater hospital into allegations that loyalist paramilitaries may have used patient lists from the hospital's own computer to target Catholics in the north of the city.
Ten days ago, it emerged that Catholics working in the hospital, located in a staunchly loyalist part of North Belfast, were on a loyalist death squad's hit list. The hospital had to be put on alert after a threat was issued to its 1,000-strong staff, Catholic workers in particular.
In a sinister development, it has now been claimed that loyalist death squads have gained access to the hospital's highly confidential medical records and are using such information to plan their attacks. The files, from the hospital's own computers, contain personal details of patients, such as their addresses, medical condition and other privileged information.
Gerry Kelly says it is vital that the hospital takes immediate internal action and carries out a full investigation into the matter. ``If loyalists have breached the Mater's security system then that must be investigated'', he said.
``People have a right to know if their personal security has been compromised and whether or not the hospital can allay their fears. While I have always supported the fine work that the Mater does, I would nonetheless call on hospital chiefs to ensure there is a system in place that ensures anyone accessing sensitive and personal hospital files is identifiable at all times.
He added ``I know that there has always been a good working relationship between Catholics and Protestants in the Mater and I hope that continues for a long time to come. Let me be clear that I am in no way saying that the Protestant staff are to blame.''
Catholic staff have reacted angrily to the news of the death threats and say the hospital is not taking appropriate action. Despite pledges from the chief executive of the hospital, some Catholic staff say they have heard nothing about the claims or of what is being done to ensure their safety.
``We only heard about it in the media; no one has told us about what threats are being made and who is most at risk,'' said one angry North Belfast resident, who works in one of the most exposed departments.
The Chief Executive of the hospital says that special measures have been taken to ensure the security of the hospital staff and that special security instructions have been issued. However, a number of workers who talked to An Phoblacht said they have not received any special instructions.
In the past, loyalists have used the Mater Hospital to carry out killings. In October 1976, UFF killers shot dead mother of five and leading Sinn Féin member Máire Drumm while she received treatment at the Mater.
In August 1993, New Lodge man Seamus Hopkins was abducted from the hospital grounds and found battered to death on waste ground in Sherbrook Way off the Shankill Road. In the same period, a security man on duty at the hospital was shot and seriously wounded as he sat in a hut at the Crumlin Road site.