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28 March 2002 Edition

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Loyalists provoke North Belfast riots

The unrelenting loyalist violence aimed at nationalist homes throughout North Belfast continued throughout last weekend, with some of the heaviest rioting in the Limestone Road area.

For the first time in a number of months, loyalists once again used a pipe bomb in an attack on homes in Newington Street. That attack, launched at about 3.30pm on Saturday afternoon 23 March, went wrong when the bomb rebounded off a fence and fell back into Tiger's Bay, where it exploded, injuring a woman in her 30s.

Loyalist spokespersons attempted to lay the blame for the bomb attack on nationalists, but Sinn Féin's Danny Lavery, who was on the scene, said "this isn't the first time loyalists have tried to point the finger of blame at nationalists for one of their own mistakes. I hope this isn't the beginning a new campaign of pipe bombings by the UDA against residents of this area."

In the rioting that erupted in the Limestone Road area on Saturday at the time of the explosion, loyalists attempted to invade Newington Street. In a familiar pattern, as residents came out to defend their homes, Crown forces moved in and confronted the nationalists.

Later on Saturday, loyalists threw a bucket of petrol into the rear of a house in Newington Street and tried to set it on fire. A young lad who tried to extinguish the flames was injured when he was struck by an acid bomb.

That night, a teenager walking along the Limestone Road was attacked by a four-strong gang of loyalist men, who used broken bottles to stab him in the face. The youth had 26 stitches and staples inserted in facial and neck wounds. The boy's father said a doctor told him his son was lucky to be alive as the bottle had entered his throat close to his jugular vein.

The weekend violence also affected the small nationalist enclaves at Longlands and Whitewell Road. On Saturday 21 March, a gang of loyalists tried to attack homes on the Whitewell Road. Homes in the Longlands Court area, Serpentine Road and the Whitewell were attacked with petrol bombs, fireworks, stones and bottles. The White City-based loyalists again attacked the same areas on Sunday again using petrol bombs and fireworks.

Meanwhile, nationalist politicians and community workers have discounted loyalist claims that nationalists are attacking children and their parents going to the Currie Primary school on the Limestone Road. Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast, Gerry Kelly, told An Phoblacht that "loyalists are manipulating this trouble to raise tension. I can categorically state that nationalists have not and are not involved in any campaign of attacks on this school."

Kelly recounted how on Monday 25 March a gang of loyalists attacked four Catholic schoolgirls going to a shop on the Limestone Road: "As loyalists threw stones at the girls, others ran into Tigers Bay shouting 'the fenians are attacking the school' and set off an alarm. At the sound of the alarm, between 50 and 80 loyalists came out of Tigers Bay and onto the Limestone Road.

"There were only the four schoolgirls, three men and four women on the Limestone Road at the time. That hardly constitutes a mob intent attacking the school."


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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