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11 April 2002 Edition

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UDA attacks continue

The UDA-instigated violence of the last two weeks directed at nationalist communities in the Limestone and Whitewell areas of North Belfast spread to Ardoyne at the end of last week, where Catholic homes where stoned by drunken thugs.

The small nationalist enclave of Short Strand in East Belfast was also targeted with a number of homes, businesses and St Matthew's Chapel being attacked.

On Tuesday night, 2 April at 6.30pm, loyalists attacked nationalist homes on the Limestone Road and in Newington Street. Sinn Féin councillor Eoin Ó Broin said the party was trying to keep the situation calm in the face of these unwarranted attacks on nationalist homes. "This community wants dialogue and problems resolved, but it takes two people to resolve this ongoing problem," he said.

The following night, Wednesday 3 April, loyalists again went on the rampage at the junction of Halliday's Road and the Limestone Road, when over 30 bomb and gun attacks took place in the matter of four hours. Most of these attacks were directed at the RUC/PSNI and the British Army.

It was on Thursday afternoon, 5 April, that loyalist gangs took their campaign of sectarian intimidation to the Ardoyne Road area of North Belfast. About 100 loyalists targeted nationalist houses and cars on the road, hurling bricks, stones and bottles. When nationalist residents came out to confront the attackers, at least five shots were fired at them from the loyalist Glenbryn area.

"When residents came out of their homes we heard shots and I thought someone was going to be killed. It was a terrifying experience for everyone", said Colette Cassidy, a mother of three who lives on the Ardoyne Road and whose home was attacked.

Sinn Féin's Margaret McClenaghan said: "This is a very busy street, especially due to the holidays. We have children playing in their gardens and mothers looking after them. Any one of these people could have been killed or seriously injured. For their own safety, residents are demanding to know whether the gunmen were captured on the recently installed cctv."

Commenting on death threats issued against nationalists by the Red Hand Defenders, McClenaghan said: "The Red Hand Defenders' death threats were received in the early hours of Saturday morning. They were directed at myself, Martin Meehan Snr and two other nationalists. The threats stated explosive devices had been left at our homes. Clearly, these are a continuation of the UDA's campaign in North Belfast."


Sectarian attacks move to East Belfast



On Thursday night, 4 April, at around 7.30pm loyalists began stoning buses and nationalist homes at the junction of the Mountpottinger Road and the Albertbridge Road at the small nationalist Short Strand enclave in East Belfast.

A number of community workers from the Short Strand moved to calm the situation, but the loyalist gang moved towards Madrid Street and then on to St Matthew's Chapel.

East Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Joe O'Donnell told An Phoblacht that "there has been much good work done in the East Belfast area over the past year aimed at helping build community relations. Attacks such as these do not help this work. I would call on anybody who holds any influence over the loyalist community, particularly politicians, church leaders and community workers to do all in their power to bring such attacks to an end."


UDA bombers target mixed marriage



A North Belfast family narrowly escaped injury after loyalists smashed their living room window before hurling two blast bombs into the house.

Martin and Alexandra Finlay and the couple's four children, aged between two and 16 years, were at home at the time of the attack. Two masked men were seen running from the scene and towards the loyalist Greymount estate. Martin Finlay said his family had been terrified when they were woken by the double blast early on Saturday morning.

"I opened the door and the living room was filled with smoke," said Martin. "The place was devastated."

A well-known Catholic shopkeeper in the area, Finlay believes loyalists targeted him because he had "the audacity to marry a Protestant".

Loyalists have targeted the family on a number of previous occasions, including three petrol bomb attacks and a device planted under the family's car. This latest attack followed claims by the UDA-affiliated Ulster Political Research Group that the UDA had given assurances it would work to ease tension in the area.

Despite that claim, parts of North Belfast have continued to be ravaged by loyalist violence throughout the following week.

"We said we would judge the UDA by their actions and not their words," said local Sinn Féin Councillor Danny Lavery, "and clearly their actions speak louder than words."


Senior UDA men responsible for surgery attack



Two nationalist men were attacked by loyalists as they left a doctor's surgery in Tiger's Bay on Tuesday afternoon, 9 April.

One of the men took an epileptic seizure during the attack and had to go to hospital for treatment afterwards. He also suffered some injuries during the assault.

Sinn Féin Councillor Gerard Brophy said the men were sitting in the waiting room the UDA men came in. Said Brophy: "One of the UDA men said 'we have a couple of Fenian bastards here' then left and waited outside for the men to leave."

Outside, a gang of loyalists, led by the two known UDA men, attacked them.

"The UDA have regularly targeted nationalists using this surgery," said Brophy. "They are attempting to stop nationalists using the surgery and anyone from the New Lodge area has to run a gauntlet of UDA threats and violence when they visit the doctor."


Kelly meets Kennedy



Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly has met with the British Security Minister, Jane Kennedy to discuss the ongoing situation in North Belfast. Speaking to An Phoblacht Kelly said: "Given the recent onslaught from the UDA in North Belfast, with over 30 bomb and gun attacks in one night and an escalating campaign in the Whitewell area, including the bombing of a family home on Sunday, I am demanding to know what the British government is doing to bring an end to this situation.

"The British Security Minister has indulged in or succumbed to a securocrat agenda, with raids on nationalist areas and the reopening of interrogation centres. At a time when the nationalist community is under attack from loyalists, they find themselves enduring attacks from the British Crown forces as well. I am demanding that the British immediately reign in those attacking nationalist communities, both from the UDA and the intelligence agencies."


Sectarian school threat fabricated - Kelly



Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly has said that an alleged threat against a Protestant primary school in North Belfast was fabricated by the UDA.

The threat, sent to the Currie Primary school in a letter, was issued against the parents and teachers of the school on the Limestone Road by the so-called Catholic Reaction Force.

According to Gerry Kelly, "any such threat has to be treated seriously and it is my belief that it has not come from any section of the nationalist community".

"The Catholic Reaction Force is a non-existent organisation," he said. "The fabricated group is used by the UDA in order to raise tensions and direct blame away from their own actions. They are the main instigators of the violence on the interface areas, particularly around the Limestone Road at Parkside and Newington Street".

Kelly pointed out that in the last two years, the UDA attacked houses in Denmark Street in the loyalist Shankill area and sent threatening letters to Protestant pensioners in the Glenbryn area at the height of the Holy Cross picket in attempts to blame republicans for instigating sectarian violence and to justify their own attacks on nationalists.

Added Kelly: "The parents and teachers at the school should be assured that the nationalist residents of the area are completely against any attacks or threats directed at the school. The residents wholeheartedly support the right to education for all children, free from sectarian harassment or intimidation.

"I will be contacting representatives from the school in order to reassure them of the goodwill of local residents."

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