30 May 2002 Edition
Loyalists besiege Antrim school
BY SEÁN MacEACHAIDH
On Thursday 23 May, parents of St Malachy's High School in Antrim Town held a public meeting to seek an end to the loyalist intimidation and threats from the UDA's youth wing. Since the start of the new school year, pupils attending the school have been under constant threat from loyalists connected to the Ulster Young Militants.
The meeting was attended by Sinn Féin's Antrim Town councillor Martin McManus, himself an ex-pupil of the school. The Sinn Féin councillor was the sole public representative to attend the meeting despite invitations having been sent to all local councillors. McManus vowed "to pursue every avenue to end the growing UDA intimidation of Catholic schoolchildren".
A spokesperson for the parents told An Phoblacht that parents were angry that no representative from the school, including the school principal, was present at the meeting.
Parents said that there has been intimidation against their children since September but that there has been a notable increase of attacks, threats and intimidation over the last two months. One parent says her son was hit with a bottle and required three stitches when he was attacked on his way home from school.
When contacted by An Phoblacht, the school principal, Mr Quinn, expressed his support for the parents and their concerns. He conveyed his wholehearted sympathy regarding the safety of the pupils and emphasised that parents ought not to consider his non-attendance at the meeting as indicative of a "less than appropriate interest" on his part. Quinn said that he intends to arrange a meeting with the parents.
An Antrim father is accusing the RUC/PSNI of mistreating his 13-year-old son after an incident at St Malachy's High School. Paddy Murray told An Phoblacht that on Friday 10 May his son was "manhandled into an RUC/PSNI vehicle and forcibly held there for a long time".
Murray criticised the school authorities as the RUC/PSNI were in the school grounds when they detained his son and that the incident happened in full view of teaching staff. "My son's alleged offence was that he gave the fingers to either the RUC/PSNI or loyalists who were gathering outside the school," said Murray.
Attacks continue on nationalist North Belfast
The UDA has again instigated pipe, blast and petrol bomb attacks in North Belfast.
On Saturday 25 May three Catholic youths were returning home along the Antrim Road towards Carrickhill when they were viciously attacked by loyalists lying in wait. A crowd of loyalists emerged from the Shankill estate onto Carlisle Circus and began beating the three youths. One of the young men was struck a number of times on the head with a baseball bat.
Nationalist residents of the New Lodge hearing of the assaults, ran onto Clifton Street. The youths were already on their way to hospital but at this point a UDA gunman emerged from the loyalist Denmark Street, and began firing shots at the nationalists. The RUC/PSNI came into the area and began pushing the nationalist residents back into the New Lodge area. They did not move against the loyalists.
The following morning, loyalists entered North Queen Street and attempted to take Tricolours down from the lampposts but were chased back into Tigers Bay. They returned at lunchtime and threw stones and other missiles at nationalist houses in North Queen Street before returning to Tiger's Bay.
Later that night, the loyalists returned again. As residents stood protecting their property, a loyalist attempted to throw a pipe bomb but he dropped it. The bomb failed to explode. The RUC/PSNI then arrived in force and once again confronted nationalist residents. A number of people were batoned.
A house in Newington Street was targeted in a second bomb attack. At 6.30pm the pipe bomb was thrown from Halliday's Road, Tigers Bay, into the back yard of the house, where it exploded. The oil tank at the rear of this home caught fire but was extinguished by the Fire Brigade. Luckily, no one was at home at the time.
Twenty minutes later, across the Limestone Road at Parkside, another pipe bomb was hurled over the interface wall from the loyalist Halliday's Road. Children playing on a green had a lucky escape when the device landed just feet away.
Eesidents ran into the street only to be confronted by boiler suited RUC/PSNI men, who physically and verbally attacked them.
On Monday 27 May, Newington Street was once again the scene of a UDA attack. This time a petrol bomb was hurled into the back of a Catholic home but caused little damage.
UVF gunman in South Belfast
Sinn Féin has accused the UVF of trying to create a new interface in South Belfast after loyalists attacked homes in South Belfast for the second weekend in a row.
On Sunday evening, 25 May, loyalists came from the loyalist Donegal Pass and stood on a wall around UTV's Havelock House and stoned homes in McClure Street and Powers Court Way. Later that same night, a crowd of loyalists started firing rocket fireworks from long bows at homes in McClure Street. A number of windows were broken and one family had a lucky escape when one of the devices came through the window and snagged itself on the curtains before burning itself out.
One device overshot two rows of houses, landing on plastic piping and polystyrene tiles on a building site, starting a fire that had to be extinguished by the Fire Brigade.
A loyalist was spotted with a weapon during the attack. He was caught on film taking a gun from a plastic bag he had concealed under his coat. He put the gun back into the bag as the RUC/PSNI arrived and passed it to a younger person who was hiding in shrubbery at the gunman's side.
Sinn Féin's Michael Brown said the incident showed that the incident gave the lie to the perception that the UVF are still on ceasefire. "They are challenging the UDA for leadership in interface areas," he said.
Sectarian attacks return to Ligoniel
A 44-year-old Catholic man has accused loyalists of trying to kill him after they poured petrol through his first floor flat on the Ligoniel Road around midnight on Friday 17 May.
The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, was alerted to the attack on his home when he heard neighbours yelling that his front door was on fire. "Everyone was shouting and I started to panic when I saw the fire," he said. "I pulled down the curtains from the door and my neighbours poured buckets of water over the flames. This was a deliberate attempt to kill me."
In another incident, also in Ligoniel, a 57-year-old man escaped with his life when he was assaulted by a gang of three loyalists in broad daylight. The man was hit with a stick across his arm before one of his assailants lunged at him with a knife, ripping his jumper in two places. A third loyalist then threw a hammer at the man's legs. This incident occurred in the week before the arson attack.
RUC try to recruit informer
Ardoyne man Martin McCauley (32) has revealed this week how the RUC/PSNI approached him in an attempt to force him to become an informer.
He said two RUC/PSNI members asked him for the names of people involved in rioting in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast on the day of the Scottish Cup Final after loyalists attacked nationalist houses and serious trouble broke out.
Sinn Féin councillor for Ardoyne, Margaret McClenaghan, told An Phoblacht that McCauley, who is accused of riotous behaviour, was waiting for his case to be heard at the city's Waterfront Courts when he was approached by the RUC/PSNI and asked to inform on other people. They told him that they would not oppose his bail if he gave them the information they wanted.
McCauley refused and demanded to see his solicitor.
This disclosure comes only weeks after a young North Belfast man admitted that he had been recruited as an informer at the age of 14 and his life was now ruined by the behaviour of the RUC, she said. "These are the actions of an unreconstructed police force. What is needed is the new beginning to policing promised under the Good Friday Agreement."
Lurgan taxi drivers under threat
Catholic taxi drivers in Lurgan have been warned to be extra vigilant after it was revealed they are under threat from loyalists. RUC/PSNI officers visited taxi firms on Monday 27 May to warn drivers that they could be in danger from loyalist blast bombs.
Catholic drivers have been told that they should not stop for lengthy periods of time in town.
Loyalists from the Lurgan area have in the last few years regularly targeted taxi drivers. Michael McGoldrick was shot dead by Billy Wright's LVF in 1996 at the height of that year's Drumcree stand off and only last Hallowe'en night a driver survived a loyalist sectarian gun attack while in his vehicle.
Sectarian victim's grave vandalised
The mother of sectarian victim Daniel McColgan has pleaded that her son's grave be left in peace after his headstone was destroyed this week.
The malicious act of vandalism, which took place at Carnmoney Cemetery on the outskirts of north Belfast, is believed to have been sectarian. The damage was discovered on Tuesday morning, just four weeks after the headstone was erected. Beforehand, insulting graffitti relating to McCogan's killing had appeared in loyalist areas.
"What more do they want? They took away an innocent person and now this," said Marie McColgan, who had been tidying the grave with her husband Samuel just hours before the attack.