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25 July 2002 Edition

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Young man killed as loyalist violence escalates

BY LAURA FRIEL


 
Gerard Lawlor

A Catholic teenager was shot dead, a Catholic man was seriously injured and a number of other Catholics narrowly escaped death in five separate shooting incidents. Two Catholic men were viciously beaten and stabbed.

A Catholic woman and her children were almost burnt alive when the car they were travelling was set alight. Two Catholic brothers lost everything when their home was engulfed during a petrol bomb attack.

In the last three months, there have been 363 attacks against Catholics. In other words, on average there have been four sectarian attacks against Catholics every day since May. There have been 144 bomb attacks, 25 shooting incidents, 151 homes damaged, 42 people assaulted and one killing.

In Belfast, the escalation of loyalist violence continued last week with loyalist paramilitaries particularly targeting vulnerable nationalist areas in the North of the city.

In Ardoyne, four days of sustained loyalist attack on Catholic homes in Alliance Avenue began around 5.30pm on Wednesday, 17 July. For almost six hours, Catholic homes were attacked with bricks and bottles, paint and petrol bombs.

The home of one young Catholic family was paint bombed 17 times on Wednesday night alone. Gerard Russell said he was afraid to let his five-year-old son step outside the door.

"Ever since the loyalist blockade of Holy Cross primary school we have been living in fear but the last few days have been a complete nightmare," he said.

Two Catholic men were viciously beaten by a loyalist mob in the Oldpark area of North Belfast. A 37-year-old North Belfast Catholic was attacked by a loyalist gang as he walked home around midnight on Wednesday.

The man, who had been celebrating his birthday, was dragged into a deserted cul-de-sac in the loyalist end of the Oldpark Road and viciously beaten.

"They knew I was a Catholic. I thought they were going to kill me. I feel lucky to be alive," he said.

In a sustained sectarian attack, the loyalist gang of four beat their victim with a baseball bat and tried to stab him in the stomach. The victim, who was left bleeding and unconscious, required 35 staples to his head at the nearby Mater Hospital.

Within hours of the attack, a loyalist gang in the Oldpark Road area attacked a second Catholic man. The father of three was attacked around 2am in the early hours of Thursday morning as he walked with a friend along Rosapenna Street, a predominantly Catholic area of the Oldpark Road.

The victim said a car carrying four men drew up and two of the passengers got out. One of the assailants said, "You're dead you Fenian bastards". The man was stabbed in the right upper arm. The gaping eight-inch wounded required emergency surgery. "If they‚re driving around in cars with knives then they're intent on doing one thing and one thing only," he said.

Later that day, a Catholic mother and her three young children were trapped in their burning car after the vehicle was attacked by a 60-strong loyalist mob.

It was 11pm on Thursday night when Pauline Moore was driving on the Upper Crumlin Road. In the car were her three children, twelve-year-old Paula, Joseph (11) and Mark (6). "There was no rioting, there was hardly another car on the road, they just saw the car and attacked it," said Pauline. The windscreen was smashed and the vehicle pelted with petrol bombs.

"The car was on fire and I was shouting to the children to get down. All I could think about was the three Quinn children. I didn't want the same thing to happen to my children. They wanted to kill us. We could have burnt to death in that car," she said.

Richard (10) Mark (9) and eight-year-old Jason Quinn were burnt alive after loyalists petrol bombed their Ballymoney home at the height of the Drumcree protest in 1998.

The attack on the Moore family occurred as loyalists simultaneously targeted Catholic homes in three parts of North Belfast. Over 20 homes were attacked in Ligoniel, Deerpark and Alliance Avenue. A number of people were treated in hospital.

Loyalists in the Glenbryn area of Ardoyne pelted Catholic homes in Alliance Avenue with petrol bombs. The attack followed an earlier incident in which loyalists from Glenbryn had hurled missiles, breaking windows and damaging cars.

Television footage of the earlier attack showed loyalists in Glenbryn on the roofs of derelict house throwing missiles over the peaceline. A Catholic man and woman sustained facial and head injuries during the bombardment and were taken to hospital.

The attack stopped for a number of hours only to resume around 11pm, when more than a dozen petrol bombs were thrown from Glenbryn at Catholic homes in Alliance Avenue.

"These attacks are not being carried out by children. They are being carried out by men, UDA men," said local Sinn Féin Councillor Margaret McClenaghan.

Fearing they would be targeted by the loyalist mob, firemen at the scene were unable to enter the back gardens to extinguish the petrol bombs.

At the same time, Catholic homes in the Ligoniel Road area of North Belfast came under attack from a 50-strong loyalist mob. During a sustained 30-minute attack, the homes of ten Catholic families were targeted by the mob.

Two brothers, Jonathan (23) and 24-year-old Michael Graham fled from their ground floor flat, clambering over fences to escape the machete and baton-wielding mob.

"We made our way out of the back. When we turned round we saw our flat in flames," said Jonathan. "It's the first Catholic-occupied house on the road. It was an easy target for them. I've no doubt they would have killed anyone they got their hands on."

The Graham brothers, who recently moved back to Belfast after living in the 26 counties for 12 years, lost everything but the clothes they were wearing in the fire.

A second Catholic family, a couple with young children, escaped injury when a petrol bomb thrown at a bedroom window exploded but failed to break the glass.

Another resident described lying down against the front door in a desperate attempt to stop the loyalist mob forcing their way into his home.

"When I heard the window smashing, I jumped on the floor to protect the children. The loyalists started trying to kick in the front door. I lay down in front of the door and tried to keep them out," he said

Moments later two shots were fired. "I don‚t know if they fired at the house. All I know is that these people wanted to kill a Catholic."

A Catholic family whose Deerpark home was one of several to come under loyalist attack on Thursday night described their 'living hell'. Since the family move into the house two years ago, loyalists have attacked it 17 times.

"The latest attack came on Thursday night when loyalists broke our windows and the windows of two other houses in the street," said the resident.

The family is unable to move because no one wants to buy their house and the NIO are refusing to include the family in their Special Purchase of Evacuated Dwellings scheme because the attacks are not classified as intimidation, only vandalism.

"We're living on our nerves; no one can sleep at night because you don't know if you will be alive in the morning," he said.

Loyalists attacked two ambulance crews and several paramedics were injured when they attempted to drive into Catholic areas to attend the injured. One paramedic was knocked unconscious when he was struck on the head by a brick. Another paramedic needed glass removed from his eyes after the loyalist mob smashed the windscreen of the ambulance.


RUC/PSNI offer no protection


A Catholic family of four narrowly escaped injury when they awoke to find their Skegoniel Avenue home on fire after a petrol bomb attack. They had initially been targeted by a loyalist mob around 2am in the early hours of Saturday morning. The family's car was one of nine Catholic-owned cars smashed and torched by the mob. Three vehicles were completely burnt out, two in Skegoniel Aveune and a third in nearby Glandore Avenue.

The mob returned three hours later with petrol bombs. The Catholic couple carried their three-year-old twin sons from the blazing building. The family were forced to make their escape on foot because their car had already been destroyed.

The father later questioned the role of the PSNI/RUC, who he said had promised to stay in the area after the first attack but were absent when the loyalists returned.

On the same night, Catholic homes in the Rosapenna area of North Belfast also came under loyalist attack. Windows were smashed and cars damaged in the second of two attacks in the area in as many days.

Meanwhile, Ardoyne was facing a fourth day of sustained loyalist attack, with families living along Alliance Avenue bearing the brunt of loyalist bombardment. John Manley, a journalist for the Irish News, reported witnessing more than 20 large bricks being thrown by loyalists at one home during the short time it had taken him to interview the family.

At around 7pm on Sunday night, a number of shots were fired from Ardoyne into Glenbryn, injuring a 19-year-old loyalist near the alleyway from where the attacks on Alliance Avenue had mostly emanated. The teenager was rushed to hospital, where his condition was described as ill but stable.

Within the following five hours, loyalist gunmen launched five separate sectarian gun attacks, culminating in the killing of a 19-year-old Catholic in the Whitewell area of North Belfast.


Gerard Lawlor


Gerard Lawlor was walking home after spending an evening with friends in Glengormley at the Bellevue Arms. The teenager was shot dead in a drive-by shooting less than 200 yards from his own front door. Residents reported hearing four or five gunshots around midnight on Floral Street close to the Whitewell Road.

Gerard, who was wearing a Celtic football shirt, had been easily identified as a Catholic by his killers as he made his way into Whitewell, a Catholic enclave in a predominantly loyalist part of North Belfast. He died at the scene.

Gerard had been due to move house with his partner Siobhan and the couple's 18-month-old son Josh within days. The victim's parents were on holiday in Newcastle when they were informed of their son's death.

An initial statement claiming responsibility for the killing was issued under the cover name of the Red Hand Defenders, but the UDA later admitted they had carried out the fatal shooting.

Three masked and armed loyalists appeared on camera to read a chilling message threatening further sectarian violence. The UDA described the sectarian killing of Gerard Lawlor as a "measured military response" and claimed it was 'retaliation' for "the onslaught against the Protestant community by the republican gunmen".

A midfield player for the local St Enda's GAC, Gerard Lawlor was the fourth member of the club to be killed by loyalists within the last ten years. Liam Canning was shot dead by an off duty UDR member in 1981. Sean Fox, a 72-year-old widower, was tortured before being shot dead by the UVF in 1993. Gerry Devlin was shot dead by the LVF as he arrived at the club in 1997.

Gavin Brett, a 19-year-old killed by loyalists in the mistaken belief he was a Catholic, was talking to friends outside St Enda's when he was shot dead in July 2001. Gerard had known both Gavin Brett and 20-year-old Catholic postman Daniel McColgan, shot dead by loyalists earlier this year.

Less than an hour before the Lawlor killing on Sunday night, another Catholic sustained gunshot wounds in a loyalist attack. 29-year-old Jason O Halloran was shot in both legs and groin. Shots were fired from a dark car travelling down Rosapenna Avenue towards Cliftonville Road. At the same time, a loyalist gunman on Oldpark Road fired around ten rounds. At 10.45pm a dark car had approached a group of residents in the Catholic Ligoniel Road and a gunman opened fire. Cartridges and live rounds were later found at the scene.

Fifteen minutes earlier, in another sectarian murder bid, a loyalist gunman, riding as a passenger on a motorbike, pulled a gun on a young man standing outside Henry Joy's, a Catholic-owned bar on the Oldpark Road. The gun jammed and the motorcycle sped away.

In Salisbury Avenue, two loyalist gunmen at around 10pm had targeted two young Catholic men. Two shots were fired but no one was injured.


Kelly responds


"It is obvious to everyone that there have been ongoing sectarian attacks over the last two years by loyalist against Catholics," said North Belfast Assembly member Gerry Kelly.

"This campaign has involved 400 gun and bomb attacks, which have resulted in the deaths of five people in North Belfast and the surrounding areas alone.

"In the last two weeks, there has been an escalation and spreading of these attacks by the UDA. On Sunday night there were four sectarian murder attempts culminating in the killing of Gerard Lawlor.

"The pattern of attacks clearly shows that the UDA are intent on creating new interfaces and more areas of danger for the nationalist community. David Trimble and other unionists need to realise that in creating a crisis in the peace process and in threatening the collapse of the institutions, loyalists will follow with sectarian attacks. They know that this leads to very tragic consequences for Catholics living in vulnerable and isolated areas."

 

SF councillor's child escapes bomb attack



Loyalist bombers could have killed the four-year-old son of North Antrim Sinn Féin Councillor Philip McGuigan last week, after the child lifted a bomb addressed to the Sinn Féin man.

The bomb was posted to McGuigan's Dunloy home and was left with mail on a window sill last Thursday, 18 July. The child unwittingly lifted the package and handed it to his mother, who in turn handed to McGuigan. It was only as he was opening the package that McGuigan became suspicious and discovered it contained a video cassette case which contained a crude explosive device made up with a battery wired up to a tube.

The device was later defused by a British Army bomb expert.

Speaking afterwards, McGuigan hit out at politicians who he says have created a climate in which loyalist attacks, particularly against Sinn Féin representatives, have become acceptable.

"Loyalist are determined to raise tension in this area; this is just the latest in a series of attacks against Catholics," he said. "I have four children, all under the age of nine. This device was designed to kill and could have killed any member of my family."

McGuigan also said that mainstream unionist politicians who described him as, "evil" must accept a portion of the blame for the ongoing loyalist violence: "At a time when nationalist throughout the Six Counties are coming under nightly loyalist gun and bomb attacks, these politicians have sought to demonise nationalists, thereby allowing breathing space for loyalist death squads to operate."


Loyalist attackers go about freely



A Limavady man who received a fractured skull and severe bruising to his body during a vicious sectarian attack on him by loyalists on 22 June has said his attackers are still walking about the town despite his naming them to the RUC/PSNI.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, said his friend and himself were set upon by six loyalists who got out of a car in Catherine Street. "I woke up in Altnagelvin Hospital with a fractured skull," he said.

"No one has been arrested and nothing seems to have been done despite me identifying my attackers and telling the RUC/PSNI. I want to know why these loyalists who attacked me are walking about Limavady."


Petrol bomb attack on priests' home



Loyalists who targeted a County Down parochial house are being accused of attempting to kill the two priests living there.

Extensive damage was caused to the building, which was attacked at around 5am on Friday 19 July. Four petrol bombs and three lighter fuel canisters were thrown through the front window of the house on Downs Road and when they ignited the ensuing blaze set the kitchen alight. The fire also caused extensive smoke damage to the building.

Father Liam Blaney was awakened by the noise and alerted the other priest, Father Albert McNally. Between them, they managed to extinguish the fire.

"I now know what the people of Belfast have had to suffer. I think the kind of people who do this kind of things don't even think about the consequences of what they do, families may be trapped in one of these attacks and lose their lives," said Fr McNally.

The parochial house is associated with the Church of the Assumption, which has been attacked three times this year.

Sinn Féin councillor for Newcastle, Willie Clarke, said the attackers had intended to kill. "We believe this attack was carried out by loyalist from outside this area who have been drawn into these attacks by more sinister elements," he said.


Portadown family escape gun attack



An 18-year-old Catholic girl narrowly escaped death after a loyalist gun gang, claiming to be from the Red Hand Defenders, opened fire on her Portadown home at 12.40am on Monday 22 July.

Two bullets entered the bedroom where the teenager was sleeping. Both passed close to her head before ripping into a wardrobe across the room.

The girl lives with her parents and two siblings in Charles Street in Portadown, a street which has suffered many loyalist attacks over the years.

A car used in the attack was found burnt out a few miles from the scene.

The Red Hand Defenders in Portadown, who claimed responsibility for the shooting, are thought to be an amalgamation of the remnants of the LVF and UDA.

Craigavon Sinn Féin councillor Brian McKeown said the attack was "a very deliberate attempt to kill Catholics".

Breandán MacCionnaith of the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition has urged Catholics in the Portadown area to be very vigilant and take extra care.

"Unfortunately past experience has shown us this is unlikely to be an isolated incident," he said. "This could be the start of another murderous sectarian campaign against Catholics in Portadown."



Short Strand child hit with missile



A six-year-old Catholic girl received stitches to a gaping wound on her head after being hit with a brick thrown over the peace line into Clandeboye Drive from the loyalist Cluan Place area on Tuesday 23 July.

The child had just returned from holiday that afternoon and was playing in a garden in Clandeboye Drive in the Short Strand when the missile struck her on the head, leaving blood streaming from the wound.

This is just the latest in a series of loyalist pipe bomb attacks on the Short Strand, launched from the Cluan Place interface area in recent days despite the fact that the British Crown forces have a 24-hour presence there.

On Saturday 20 July a pipe bomb was thrown into the back of houses in Clandeboye Drive. No one was injured but a pensioner's bungalow was damaged.

On Monday 22 July, a second pipe bomb was thrown over the 'peaceline' and landed on the road where children were playing. Luckily, the device failed to explode and was later defused.

The third attack came at around half past midnight, on Tuesday 23 July. The subsequent explosion broke a number of windows in Clandeboye Drive.

Sinn Féin councillor for East Belfast Joe O'Donnell has called for more protection for people living in the vicinity of Clandeboye.

"These pipe bombs are designed to kill and the RUC/PSNI are doing nothing stop these attacks on this area," he said. "We have a pensioner's bungalow already condemned by the Housing Executive because of the damage done to it by these nightly attacks. The windows are being replaced on a daily basis and the Housing Executive is even considering replacing the glass with toughened perspex."

The British Army's most senior explosive expert, Lieutenant Colonel Alex Boyd, has said that pipe bombs are more lethal than hand grenades and also that no two pipe bombs are the same and their effects are totally unpredictable.

"If I had to stand within five metres of a pipe bomb or a hand grenade I would choose the grenade as I would have a better chance of survival," said Boyd.

Pipe bomb attacks have killed five people and injured 27 in the past five years This year has seen 76 incidents involving a total of 96 pipe bombs which have resulted in one death and 11 injuries. Last year, there were 236 incidents involving 309 pipe bombs, which killed one and injured 19 people.

 

Republicans relocate Belleek monument


Sinn Féin Assembly member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Gerry McHugh has commended the families of the three IRA Volunteers commemorated on a Monument in Belleek, County Fermanagh after republicans in the county decided to relocate a memorial in their honour last week.

Said McHugh: "The families of the three volunteers, Joseph McManus, Antoine McGiolla Bhríde and Kieran Fleming and local republicans are to be commended for the sensitive and indeed difficult decision to relocate the IRA memorial in the town."

The Sinn Féin man explained that the decision to relocate the monument came after representations were made by the families of William Hassard and Frederick Love, two building contractors who worked for the Crown forces and who were shot dead by the IRA in Belleek in 1988.

In May this year, just weeks after the Memorial was unveiled, loyalists attacked it with a sledgehammer and on a second occasion poured paint over it.

"I would commend the families of the three Volunteers whose grief and pain has been largely ignored in all of this for taking this sensitive decision. I understand that the intention of local republicans is to remove and repair the monument and relocate it at another site in Belleek," said McHugh.

"It is Sinn Féin's belief that all issues of flags, emblems, commemorations and memorials should be dealt with in a sensitive and equal manner, there can be no hierarchy of victims."


Family confront attacker


A Catholic man and his son confronted a loyalist bomber moments after he threw a device at their Magherafelt home on Sunday 21 July.

Mary Donnelly said her youngest son had just left for Mass shortly before 10am on Sunday when she noticed a man acting suspiciously outside her Beechland home. "I was watching him because something was just not right," she said. "I didn't know what he had in his hand until he threw it."

The device, which turned out to be a large firework with nails attached, landed in the garden of the house. The family evacuated their home in case it exploded and the father and his son then confronted the loyalist and accused him of throwing the device.

Sinn Féin Assembly member John Kelly commended the family for their courage but advised other people not to put their lives in danger.


Loyalists attack new mother and baby


A young mother and her newborn baby boy were attacked by loyalists as they attended a doctors surgery on North Queen Street at the Tiger's Bay interface at 5.45pm on Tuesday 23 July.

The young woman's partner, who was with her, explained that the couple had just went into the doctors when two loyalist youths came in, aimed pellet guns at them and left. As the couple and their baby left the surgery to go home they were again confronted by a crowd of loyalists, who chased them with iron bars and baseball bats.

According to Sinn Féin councillor Gerard Brophy, "the loyalists sit around outside the doctor's surgery to see where people come from and if they come from the New Lodge then they see them as targets".


RUC/PSNI warn nationalists


Three men from the Markets area of South Belfast have been warned by the RUC/PSNI that their details are in the hands of the Red Hand Defenders.

South Belfast councillor and Mayor of Belfast Alex Maskey has said that everyone is well aware that the Red Hand Defenders is merely a cover name for the UDA and that republicans and nationalists have been under increased attack from the UDA over the past year.


Meehan refused firearm cert


Antrim Sinn Féin councillor Martin Meehan has had his application to carry a gun rejected in the High Court on Friday 19 July by Judge Kerr, despite numerous attempts on his and his family's lives.

Refusing the licence, Kerr cited Meehan's previous convictions.

Meehan said that all elected representatives should be treated the same but double standards were at work as unionists were still given 'carte blanche' to hold firearms certificate.

"I am under the key protection scheme yet I am still refused a firearms certificate," he said. "I and my family are under constant threat from loyalists, but this is a case of Sinn Féin still being treated as second class citizens. Thirteen Sinn Féin councillors have been killed and numerous wounded in the past but we are still refused a licence to protect ourselves."

 

Derry shooting



Waterside Sinn Féin Councillor Lynn Fleming has said loyalist paramilitaries are intent on increasing sectarian tensions in Derry after the sectarian shooting of a young Catholic man in Herron Way in the Waterside.

"In recent months we have witnessed a steady increase of loyalist activity in the Derry area," she said. "Threats, pipe bombings, sectarian intimidation and shootings are increasingly common and it is clear that loyalists are intent on including Derry in their Six County-wide sectarian pogrom.

"This attack was directed at a young Catholic man for no other reason than he lived in a particular area and offered an easy target for these loyalist gunmen.

"This shooting was carried out to intimidate Catholics in the Waterside. We must work together, all of us, to ensure that they do not succeed. Derry has escaped much of the sectarian violence that has plagued Belfast and other parts of the North; we must not allow sectarian bigots to alter that.

"It is important that nationalists and republicans throughout the Derry area remain vigilant and are not sucked into the sectarian agenda that loyalists are trying to pursue."

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