1 November 2001 Edition
Savagely beaten by loyalists
Margaret Hale heard noises outside her Alexandra Avenue home in North Belfast at 6.20am on Sunday morning, 28 October. She thought someone may have been in trouble and, bravely, went out to see if she could help. Margaret lives just off the Limestone Road, a 'flashpoint area' in North Belfast where loyalists have been carrying out concentrated attacks on nationalists using pipe bombs and guns. She was certainly taking a risk in going out to investigate the disturbance.
As she went around the corner of her home, she was set upon by loyalists armed with cudgels and clubs studded with nails. Margaret was struck repeatedly about the head and body. The gang also kicked her about the head and jumped on her as she lay unconscious on the ground.
The beating was so vicious that she was barely recognisable to her family and friends. She suffered severe bruising to her head and face, received stitches to a wound on her forehead, had staples inserted in a wound on the top of her head and was treated for a number of broken ribs. A gash on Margaret's back may have been inflicted by a hatchet, as one of the loyalists, while he was assaulting the prone woman, was shouting to his accomplices "get the hatchet and I'll do her right".
"I heard the commotion outside and went to investigate as I thought someone might have been getting beat," said Margaret. "I went round the corner and just straight away they attacked me. I don't really remember that much as I was knocked out."
Margaret's partner, who doesn't want to be identified, then told how he went after Margaret and saw her lying on the ground, "I thought she was dead," he said. As he tried to rescue her, two loyalists jumped him. He shouted at the men that they were beating a woman. "One replied, 'fuck the fenian whore' then one of them shouted for the hatchet," he said. "To me they were out to murder someone. This was orchestrated, they planned this."
When he tried to reach her, he too was attacked and when he and a neighbour did get to Margaret, one of the gang lashed out with the hatchet, hitting the neighbour on the wrist.
North Belfast attacks continue
There was no let up in the sectarian campaign of violence being waged by the UDA against nationalists throughout North Belfast in the past week.
Since we went to print last week, there have been over a dozen pipe and blast bomb attacks on the homes of nationalist families. Most of the bombings occurred as loyalists from the Tiger's Bay area continued their campaign on Catholic homes on the Limestone Road and Duncairn Gardens, which border the UDA stronghold.
Outside this area, last Tuesday 23 October, a Catholic family was targeted on the Deerpark Road near Ardoyne and the home of a Catholic pensioner who lives with his sons on Alliance Avenue was also blown up. Both Alliance and Deerpark interface with the Glenbryn area.
In the Deerpark explosion, a Catholic family of six suffered shock when the bomb exploded at their front door. On Saturday night an elderly man in his 80s suffered shock after a bomb was lobbed over the peaceline from Glenbryn and exploded near the back door of his Alliance Avenue house. The man's two sons also live in the house.
In a separate incident in Glenbryn on Friday night last, a British soldier was seriously injured when a pipe bomb exploded next to him. The RUC is blaming the UDA for this attack, which they say was a carefully planned ambush. At about 9pm, a siren went off and gangs of loyalists came onto the streets of Glenbryn and attacked the RUC and British Army. When British Army riot squads moved in, pipe bombs were directed at them. It was then that the British soldier, a member of the Welsh Fusiliers, was injured.
On the following morning, Saturday 27 October, a mob of loyalists came out of Glenbryn and attacked houses at the top of Alliance Avenue. Francis Murphy, from Ladbrooke Drive in Ardoyne, was surrounded by the loyalists and had his car attacked, causing £2,000 worth of damage. Murphy, who was travelling with his daughter and granddaughter, managed to escape but later suffered a heart attack.
He is now critically ill in hospital.
Then, on Sunday morning 28 October, 22-year-old Martin McGreevy suffered serious facial injuries when a loyalists bomb exploded close to him on the Limestone Road. Later that day the RUC arrested a senior loyalist from Tiger's Bay, which sparked more trouble. Up to eight explosive devices were thrown during that trouble.
Attacks on the Limestone had begun in earnest at 6am in the morning when 36-year-old Margaret Hale was viciously beaten by a cudgel wielding loyalists.
In the latest attack on Newington Street, off the Limestone Road, 59-year-old Rosemary Black was injured when a bomb exploded in her back yard on Wednesday, 31 October.
Black was bending down to take clothes out of her washing machine when the device exploded. She said that had she been standing upright at the time of the explosion she would have received more serious injuries.
Derry councillor lucky to be alive
A Derry City SDLP councillor had a narrow escape when his Waterside home was targeted on Friday 26 October. According to the available information, the bomb used to attack Gerry Diver's Kilfennan home is a new and more powerful device than previously used by loyalists.
Diver, who lives in Sutton Park in the predominately loyalist Waterside with his wife and four children, heard a thud and was about to go to the door when the bomb went off. Had his wife not called him back, Diver would have walked straight into the blast, which caused extensive damage to the front of the house.
The couple were critical of the RUC, saying "it took them a good while to arrive and when they did come on the scene the loyalists felt safe enough to hang around". Even when residents pointed out those responsible for the attack, the RUC refused to act. One RUC member dismissed them, claiming that "the ones that did this would be well away now".
Later that morning, a 22-year-old nationalist man received serious facial injuries when a pipe bomb thrown by loyalists exploded close to him on the Limestone Road. An Phoblacht understands Martin McGreevy has lost his upper lip and teeth in the explosion as well as other facial wounds.
Up to six other bombs were thrown during these disturbances on the Limestone Road.
RUC lied over pipe bomb
Sinn Féin councillor Eoin Ó Broin has accused the RUC of releasing false information to the media after a loyalist pipe bomb attack in Newington, North Belfast.
In the attack on Wednesday night, 24 October, a pipe bomb was lobbed into a house on Newington Avenue where it exploded. However, the RUC issued information to the media saying the explosion was caused by a firework.
Displaying pieces of shrapnel that local people found in the back yard of the house, ó Broin challenged the RUC to come clean.
Among the pieces of metal that O'Broin displayed was a heavy, machined nut, similar to those attached to other loyalist bombs.
"The attack on this house was the fourth in the last two weeks," said Ó Broin. "Breige Burns, who lived there, has had to move out because of the continuing attacks. It is my view that the RUC deliberately tried to play down this attack thinking they would get away with it because the house is unoccupied at the minute."