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11 April 2002 Edition

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Gauntlet of hate in Antrim town


Four nationalist teenagers say they are lucky to be alive after a gang of loyalists attacked them at a bar on Antrim town's main street on Easter Saturday night 30 March.

One of the teenagers said the attack was organised. "It could have happened to any Catholic in Antrim town," he said.

According to the youths, the attack began inside the bar when one of the nationalist teenagers was glassed in the face as one of the loyalists stabbed him from behind.

The teenager claimed the assault was totally unprovoked and that it was a premeditated act designed to lure them outside where other loyalists, some carrying iron bars, were waiting in ambush. As the nationalists brought their wounded friend outside, they were attacked again and all four suffered heavy abrasions and bruising. One ended up with a broken wrist.

Speaking to An Phoblacht Sinn Féin's Aine Gribben said she believes the attack is part of a wider loyalist campaign to ghettoise nationalist youths in Antrim town. The Sinn Féin representative said she was outraged by the "continuing silence of Antrim's civic and church leaders about the daily attacks and intimidation of young nationalists in their own town centre".

Gribben said she recently witnessed an incident in which a group of young Catholics girls were subjected to a torrent of sectarian abuse and taunts, including being spat upon, by a gang of loyalists in the Castle Centre. When she and the young girls reported the incident to security staff they were ignored.

Gribben says she is determined to highlight this hate-motivated issue until all concerned seriously address it, especially the Antrim town business community.

The Sinn Féin representative praised the young people for their courage to speak out against "the gauntlet of hate" that they have to run through. "The young people are our future and they deserve a better vision than the present Antrim Town offers to them," she said.

Aine Gribben has been selected by Antrim town Sinn Féin as their candidate for a by-election in the town to be held in May. The by-election was forced after SDLP member Sean McKee was forced to resign his seat. According to Gribben, the DUP members on Antrim Council refused to adhere to an arrangement made by all the other parties on the council where they would accept a co-option rather than force a by-election.
"The cost to the ratepayer for this by-election will be £20,000," said Gribben. "It seems a waste of money but now that we are into an election I am confident that the Sinn Féin vote will increase. The electorate want to see a change to the tired old policies of the past. They are fed up with the social exclusion practised by all the establishment parties."

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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