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21 March 2002 Edition

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North Belfast families flee homes

Loyalist violence in North Belfast never goes away; it hits high and lows, but it never stops.

During this past week, since Friday night 15 March, the trend has been going in an upwards direction. In the early hours of Saturday morning, 16 March, two men were attacked on the Antrim Road in Glengormley. One suffered severe stab wounds and was taken to hospital where his condition was described as stable. The second man was lucky to escape uninjured in the attack, which occurred as the pair made their way home at about 1.20am.

This is the latest attack on vulnerable Catholics living in the Glengormley area. Just a month ago a teenager was stabbed in the back by loyalists who lay in wait for him at the bottom of the Hightown Road. A week prior to that, another teenager fled in fear as a loyalist gunman approached him on the same stretch of road.

Within six hours of the knife attack, a family living on the Whitewell Road were alerted to a blaze at their house by a passing motorist. An oil tank and garden shed were destroyed in the fire started by a petrol bomb thrown over the 'peace wall' from the loyalist White City area. A six-year-old girl had to be rescued from a rear bedroom as the blaze caused severe scorch damage to the rear of the house. The family have since abandoned their home.

This was only the first Catholic family to be intimidated out of their home as a result of loyalist thuggery.


Loyalist gangs, also from the White City estate, who have been attacking Catholic homes in the small Longlands estate on the Whitewell Road, turned their attention to the bottom of the Road, targeting two homes in particular.

The family living in the first house were terrified as the loyalists pounded their windows and doors with rocks and bottles, smashing through the thick perspex used to protect the windows. This onslaught took place on Saturday evening. By Monday morning the family was gone.

Speaking to An Phoblacht, Jamesy Gilligan,a Sinn Féin activist from the area, said the RUC/PSNI refused to take any action against the loyalists yet drew their batons and "faced down" nationalists who confronted the attackers.

"They [the RUC/PSNI] let the loyalists march down the Whitewell Road unhindered to attack the Whitewell Road houses even though they saw them with bags of bottles," said Gilligan. "In fact, two RUC/PSNI Land Rovers drove past the loyalists as the made their way down the Road."

Meanwhile, attempts by the RUC/PSNI to downplay an incident in which loyalists fired six shots at a house on the Limestone Road have been criticised by Sinn Féin and residents from the area. An Phoblacht spoke to a neighbour who explained that the family in question were away when the incident happened but that she heard shots and looked out a window. "I saw a man dressed in combat clothing and he seemed to be wearing a flak jacket over over the combat clothes," she said. "After the shooting he ran off down the Limestone Road towards Halliday's Road".

This shooting was the first in a series of attacks carried out by loyalists and which culminated in serious rioting in the area on Tuesday evening, 19 March.

Attacks have continued on houses at the back of Newington Street. These were supposed to have been secured with wire mesh fencing and perspex shelters across families' yards, but these measures seem to be ineffectual.

One home was hit by six paint bombs in a sustained barrage on Tuesday morning. An RUC/PSNI member was in the house while the attacks were ongoing and witnessed them. Despite this, his colleagues in a nearby street were unable to prevent the attack. This was just the beginning of a day of serious trouble in the Limestone area.

Loyalists, claiming that nationalists were attacking the Currie Primary school on the Limestone Road, carried out a daylong barrage against nationalist people and their homes. Golf balls, machined nuts and bolts, marbles and bricks were all used as missiles. A car carrying a father and his young child was stoned coming out of Alexandra Park while the RUC/PSNI looked on.


Sinn Féin's Kathy Stanton rejected claimes that nationalists had attacked the school saying, "Sinn Féin activists were on the ground monitoring the situation and are clear that no one threw anything into the school. Sinn Féin is blaming the UDA for starting this up again and are using the school as an excuse."

Later that night, the RUC/PSNI turned on nationalists who had gathered at Newington Street. In the trouble that followed, the RUC/PSNI rammed open security gates and riot squads batoned residents. One man was hospitalised with a serious head wound.

"They rammed the gates open and have now left the people of this community feeling vulnerable as the gates were put there in the first place to prevent loyalist gun gangs entering the street where three men were shot dead," said Stanton.

As An Phoblacht goes to print, we have been told that four more families are moving out of the area because of the loyalist violence".

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An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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