28 June 2001 Edition
Bad week all round
It has been a disappointing week all round. Loyalist attacks have increased in intensity, a depressing and worrying sign of the onset of the marching season. It starting with the disgraceful blockade of a Catholic primary school, degenerated to blast bomb attacks on nationalist homes, and reached its worst with the sectarian killing of a Coleraine man.
We also had the sickening sight of loyalist thugs in Carnmoney abusing relatives who offended Orange sensibilities by attending a Catholic cemetery to pay their respects to their loved ones.
Belfast City Hall managed to hang on to its reputation as a bastion of bigotry for another year, as the Alliance Party reverted to type and voted to exclude Sinn Féin from the mayoralty. But then Sinn Féin voters are more than familiar with the tried and tested unionist gerrymander.
The DUP ran true to type by threatening to discipline a councillor for the crime of courteously shaking the hand of a Sinn Féin colleague. Meanwhile, fellow DUP man Jim Wells, convicted of using threatening words or behaviour likely to provoke a breach of the peace in a protest against a St.Patrick's Day parade, will face no disciplinary action from his party. Such priorities!
And on the wider political front, against the backdrop of increased loyalist attacks, the SDLP, other parties and the establishment media have chosen to concentrate their fire on the silent guns of the IRA.
Then we have David Trimble's latest resignation threat, which will take effect this Sunday as the Nobel Peace Prize winner chooses again to undermine rather than underpin the peace process. The DUP of course, then jumped on the bandwagon with their own resignation proposals.
What does this all say about the struggle for equality in the Six Counties? Not a lot, by the available evidence. The key point is that the rights enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement are exactly that - rights. They are not up for barter or negotiation and must be implemented. This week has taught us that.
This week has shown the imperative of achieving equality and of making the peace process work. Rather than put pressure on Sinn Féin over commitments that have already been honoured, the governments should be living up to their commitments to implement the Agreement rather than allow them to be made conditional to a unionist veto.
Sectarian killing in Coleraine
The UDA was almost certainly responsible for shooting dead a Catholic man in Coleraine, County Derry, on Saturday night 23 June.
John McCormick (25) was shot several times in the chest and head as he lay on the sofa in his living room on the loyalist Ballysally estate at approximately 10pm on Saturday. His two young sons, aged 6 and 4, as well as the dead man's nephew and niece, witnessed the shooting.
According to McCormick's partner Lynn McConnell, who is six months pregnant, the two killers forced their way into the house through a back door and shot McCormick as he watched television. McConnell accused the UDA of being behind the killing and said ``he was shot because he was a Catholic''.
Only three weeks ago, a pipe bomb was thrown at the couple's home and also in the last year there have been several incidents in which McCormick was targeted by the UDA.
This series of attacks are thought to have been carried out because McCormick was prepared to give evidence against UDA men involved in the shooting of 11-year-old Charlene Daly. Charlene was injured in a gun attack on her home in August last year, believed to have been carried out by the UDA as part of their feud with the UVF.
In the past year, the UDA in the North County Derry town have been particularly active. As well as its involvement in feuding with the UVF, the loyalist gang has carried out numerous gun and bomb attacks on Catholics living in the area. Several families have moved out of Coleraine, after being targeted by the UDA.
This latest attack, so far the most serious, is being seen as an attempt by the UDA to crank up tension in the run up to Drumcree.
The dead man's funeral took place in Coleraine on Wednesday 27 June.
Man wounded in sectarian axe attack
A nationalist man from Broadway in West Belfast is lucky to be alive after a loyalist attack in which he was struck with an axe.
The man, who was seriously injured, was walking along Broadway on his way home on Tuesday, 19 June, when he was set upon by two carloads of loyalists. Three men jumped out of the first vehicle and repeatedly hit the unsuspecting nationalist with baseball bats.
A man armed with an axe then got out of the second vehicle and struck the already wounded nationalist on the arm and head.
The man's distraught wife said her husband would have to undergo major laser surgery. ``I am just glad to be visiting my husband in hospital and not the graveyard.''
The man's arm is broken in two places and all his tendons are severed, he has severe head injuries and can't remember much about the attack. Loyalists from the nearby Village area have carried out a number of other attacks on nationalist residents of the area.
Man shot as sectarian attacks continue
As An Phoblacht goes to press, sectarian attacks on nationalists and their property are continuing, particularly throughout North Belfast.
In one of the latest attacks, a Catholic man was shot by loyalists near the peaceline at Rosapenna Street in the Oldpark area, while St Mary's On the Hill Catholic Church was attacked by sectarian arsonists on Tuesday morning.
On Wednesday afternoon as we go to print, two security alerts are ongoing, one in Alliance Avenue the scene of two loyalist bomb attacks last week and the other in Killyman near Dungannon in County Tyrone.
In the Oldpark shooting, carried out in the early hours of Wednesday morning 27 June 27, a man was hit in the back by a bullet fired through his kitchen window. According to local sources the gunman climbed up a ladder on the loyalist side of the `peaceline' and opened fire through the kitchen window of the house in Rosapenna Street. It is thought the gun may have jammed, explaining why only one shot was fired. The bullet hit the window frame first before ricocheting and hitting the man on the back.
The couple were attending a birthday party in the house at the time of the attack. Three children, aged seven, ten and 15, were asleep upstairs at the time.
Sinn Féin's Assembly member for North Belfast, Gerry Kelly has accused the UDA of orchestrating violence in the area. ``Last night a ladder was used to scale the `peaceline' and shots were then fired into a Catholic-owned home. It was only through sheer luck that nobody was killed,'' he said. ``I have no doubt that this attack was carried out by the UDA and is part of their on going campaign of intimidation and violence against Catholics in North Belfast and beyond.''
Meanwhile, St Mary's On the Hill Catholic Church was targeted by loyalists in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the second attack on Catholic churches in the Glengormley area in the space of just two weeks. The church was set alight by arsonists but only minor damage was caused to the roof and front porch.
This arson attack came less than 48 hours after loyalists disrupted cemetery Sunday services in nearby Carnmoney graveyard. The loyalists left a hoax bomb in a car which they abandoned at the entrance to the cemetery as the service was taking place.
Also during the service, a mob of youths, some as young as 12, demonstrated with Union Jacks and Ulster flags. According to witnesses, the gang shouted sectarian abuse at those in the cemetery. They were later joined by adult demonstrators.
Loyalists had previously threatened to picket the Cemetery Sunday Mass, with loyalist councillor Tommy Kirkham warning he would take part.
Every year, Cemetery Sunday at Carnmoney attracts nearly 5,000 people to remember their loved ones. Fr Dan Whyte said: ``There is no other reason other than naked sectarianism. Once the sectarian jack is out of the box it is very hard to get it back in and I fear that we will all suffer.
Ballynahinch town centre taken over by loyalists
Tension is rising in the County Down town of Ballynahinch after a group of 50 loyalists painted the town's Main street red, white and blue and erected loyalist flags. Loyalists recently erected a sign at the entrance to the estate saying ``WELCOME TO LOYALIST LANGLEY ROAD''.
This is the latest incident to take place in the town, causing fear among nationalist residents who have been under constant attack by loyalists in the past year.
A dossier listing numerous attacks has been passed to civil servants from the Department of Foreign in Dublin along with a request from local representatives that the Dublin government do something to alleviate the situation.
And Sinn Féin councillor Alex Maskey has hit out those responsible for raising sectarian tensions in South Belfast by erecting UDA flags in mixed areas. Loyalists have specifically targeted the Four Winds area because it is mixed.
NATIONALISTS CORRALLED IN BALLYMENA
Sinn Féin's North Antrim spokesperson and Ballymoney Councillor Phillip McQuigan has slammed the handling by the RUC of a potentially dangerous situation in the nationalist estate of Fisherwick in Ballymena.
McQuigan said that in response to a threat by Orangemen to take an illegal parade into the mainly nationalist estate, the RUC corralled residents for over two hours.
``The situation was further aggravated by the aggressive and antagonistic behaviour of the RUC,'' he added. ``In an attempt to provoke the residents of Fisherwick, the RUC attempted to detain two young men until challenged by Sinn Fein representatives.'' With McQuigan's intervention, the situation was defused.
McQuigan added: ``The RUC would serve the interests of the wider community by halting these illegal parades at source rather than laying siege to nationalist areas.
``As a society we need to see the creation of an accountable policing service that is able to protect the rights of everyone living in the north of Ireland equally. The widespread intimidation of nationalists in Ballymena and throughout the North is no longer acceptable, whether it comes from loyalists or the RUC.''