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23 May 2002 Edition

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Adair release a cause for concern

Nationalist politicians are treating with scepticism the pledge made by loyalist spokesperson John White that "the nationalist people have nothing to fear from Johnny Adair".

White made the claim outside Maghaberry Prison in County Antrim last Wednesday 15 May, when he joined up to 200 loyalists in welcoming the UDA leader Johnny Adair on his was release from prison. Also among the loyalist throng greeting Adair were the six members of the UDA's so-called Inner Circle. Adair himself refused to speak to the media, instead allowing White to speak on his behalf.

However within hours of his release Adair, accompanied by his supporters, drove in a cavalcade around the streets of North Belfast, including those interface areas where the UDA has been on the rampage over the past 18 months. Adair also drove around the loyalist Glenbryn estate, the scene of some of the worst UDA violence seen in North Belfast in the past year, including the Holy Cross blockade. Tensions are already high in the area after a number of pipe bomb attacks and loyalist-inspired rioting.

"This was a totally provocative act," said Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly, Assembly member for North Belfast. "For over 18 months the nationalist community has been on tenterhooks, with over 400 bomb and gun attacks directed at them by the UDA. To have a loyalist cavalcade so close to sensitive interface areas was sheer recklessness."


Homes stoned in Belfast


A number of nationalist homes in McClure Street off the Ormeau Road were attacked by a gang of loyalists at 10pm on Sunday 19 May. A number of windows were broken.

According to Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey, a number of loyalists from the Donegall Pass area came over the railway track and attacked homes. Maskey said residents told him they had made numerous calls to the RUC/PSNI but got no response.

Two weeks ago loyalists, also from from Donegall Pass, attacked homes in the nearby Markets area.

"These attacks are clearly the work of the UVF and it is a worrying development coming on the back of David Ervine's statement about his diminishing support for the Good Friday Agreement," said Maskey.


Pipe bombs found near Catholic church


The opening service of the annual solemn novena at St Gerard's Church on the Antrim Road was disrupted last Wednesday, 15 May, after three loyalist pipe bombs were found at the junction of the Serpentine Road and the Antrim Road.

The three bombs were primed and ready for use, and one Catholic resident was told by the RUC/PSNI that they were more sophisticated than the usual loyalist devices.

The find has now raised fears among local nationalists that the UDA was about to carry out an attack or attacks in the area. Residents are also worried at the prospect of a new loyalist bombing campaign.

Danny Lavery Sinn Féin councillor for the area said "this raises serious concerns that on the first night of this Novena, which is to run for nine days. Loyalist paramilitaries in North Belfast are targeting a religious service."

Last year, loyalists disrupted the Cemetery Sunday ceremony at Carnmoney Cemetery using a car bomb. "I would call for anyone with influence over these people to use it before someone is killed," said Lavery.


Schoolboy escapes loyalists


A West Belfast schoolboy has had a lucky escape from machete wielding loyalists. The 16-year-old was walking along the Springfield Road on Wednesday evening, 15 May, when two loyalists chased him down the Springfield Road shouting "we're the Shankill butchers and we're out to get a fenian".

A quick thinking local couple drove between the loyalists and the young boy, who managed to make his escape into Watermouth Crescent. After the couple intervened, the loyalists made their escape back across the 'peaceline'.

Springfield Residents Action Group spokesperson Frances McAuley, commended the couple on their actions and said they probably saved the boy's life. "Every year coming up to the marching season loyalists keep upping the ante in this community," she said. "Someone is going to be killed if loyalist politicians and community workers don't keep a check on these thugs."

McAuley added that nationalist residents living in houses across from Workman Avenue had come under stone attack from loyalist gangs. A number of windows were broken.

"We can only hope that this week's attacks are not a signal of yet another long hot summer for the people of the Lower Springfield Road," concluded McAuley.
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