7 March 2002 Edition
Belfast homes attacked
The bomb attack on the home of a Catholic family in the Newington area of North Belfast last Wednesday night, 27 February, came within days of a high profile meeting between British Tory MP Quentin Davies and the newly formed Loyalist Commission.
The Commission was set up by unionist politicians and loyalist community leaders and includes members of the UDA, the UVF and the Red Hand Commandos.
Media reports suggest that Davies, who is the Tory party spokesperson on the North, asked the loyalists about decommissioning but was told bluntly that there was no chance.
A spokesperson for the killer gang is reputed to have stated, "our position from the outset has always been that decommissioning is not something we signed up to". And even though the UDA has been behind over 300 pipe bomb attacks, mainly on Catholics throughout the North, the UDA says it is not under pressure to decommission its weapons.
According to Sinn Féin Councillor Gerard Brophy, the occupants of the house on Newington Street were at home at the time of the attack and say the device caused a huge explosion. "The householders told me the explosion was far too loud to be a firework and they heard the sound of metal hitting the ground just before the bomb went off," said Brophy.
A caller claiming to be from the Red Hand Defenders and using a recognised code word warned that they left a bomb at the home of an Ardoyne family on Friday morning 1 March.
Despite claims that the organisation had been disbanded under pressure from the UDA, Friday's incident shows the threat it still poses.
Friday's incident began at 8.30am when Joe O'Connor's 12-year-old daughter opened the front door of the family home in Cranbrook Court in Ardoyne on her way out to school and discovered the device taped onto the front door.
The family moved to the back of the house and the British Army bomb squad was sent for. Although the device turned out to be an elaborate hoax, they suffered a severe shock.
"We don't know why we were targeted," said Joe O'Connor. "We are Catholics living in a Catholic area so it could be that we were just targeted at random. There is no reason why we should have been singled out as we are not politically involved".
Sectarian murder bid
BY LAURA FRIEL
A Catholic teenager survived a sectarian murder bid at a North Belfast shopping centre last Monday. Anthony Rice was stabbed after a number of youths attacked him as he left the Yorkgate complex. The 19-year-old suffered a collapsed lung and needed 15 stitches to a knife wound to his back.
"It was pure and simply because he was a Catholic," said his mother Donna Reid, "It's only a matter of time before somebody's child gets killed."
The five strong loyalist gang made their escape into the nearby Tigers Bay area after the stabbing. The incident follows a recent upsurge in sectarian attacks against Catholic families in the area.
In the Oldpark area of North Belfast an incident in which windows of two houses were smashed in the early hours of Sunday morning has been confirmed as the work of loyalists.
One disabled resident, Tillie Russell described how two men attacked her home, throwing beer bottles through the window before driving away in a dark vehicle. A dark Ford Mondeo had been stolen in a loyalist area.
In a second serious sectarian attack, a young Catholic man walking along Obins Street near the junction of Craigwell Avenue, Portadown was attacked and viciously beaten by two loyalist assailants, one of whom was armed with a Stanley knife. The young man was treated in hospital for serious head injuries.
This followed an earlier incident in which loyalists armed with hammers smashed a number of vehicles belonging to Catholic residents in Obins Street.
In what is believed to be a sectarian attack on a Catholic chapel in Newcastle, an axe was used to smash windows in the sacristy, toilets and back doors of the Church of Mary of the Assumption.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the RUC/PSNI has confirmed that 30 members of the Neo Nazi group Combat 18 spent last weekend with the UDA in North Belfast.
Several hundred loyalists attended a rally in Newtownards last week to hear Orange extremist Mark Harbinson, a key organiser of a neo fascist grouping calling itself the "Grand Protestant Committee". Harbinson, who dubbed Drumcree as 'Ulster's Alamo' is a flute bandsman and member of the Stoneyford Orange Lodge. He was arrested and questioned after a loyalist death list containing the names and personal details of over 400 republicans and nationalist was discovered at Stoneyford Orange Hall three years ago. The information had been taken from computers at the nearby British army HQ in Lisburn.
At the time Harbinson insisted that the incident had been manufactured to 'blacken' his name. The Newtownards rally is believed to be the first of a number of loyalist 'shows of strength' planned by the 'Committee' this year.
Other Anti Agreement hardliners on the platform were Johnny McLoughlin, Joe Brown, David Hobson and Edward Dodds. Also present was DUP Assembly member Jim Shannon, who described himself as only 'interested' in the Committee but not a member. "They didn't come across as militant," said Shannon.
The rallies are currently being advertised on a hardline loyalist website linked to extreme racist and loyalist organisations. In what can only be described as deliberately provocative, the 'Committee' is planning to hold a rally at Craigavon civic centre on the anniversary of the murder of Lurgan solicitor Rosemary Nelson.
The council, which accepted the booking last year, is seeking legal opinion to determine if the rally, scheduled to take place next Friday, can go ahead. Rosemary Nelson died in a loyalist car bombing in 1999.
Loyalist Stephen McCullough, who was found dead at the foot of Cavehill in North Belfast just hours after telling a British soldier that he had information about the killers of Catholic postal worker Daniel McColgan, may have played a part in the killing.
McCullough was last seen being arrested by the RUC/PSNI. At Musgrave Street barracks McCullough asked to speak to detectives investigating the killing but is reported as having left the barracks before speaking to anyone.