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8 August 2002 Edition

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UDA threaten Catholics in Derry

A group of up to 100 loyalists attacked a hostel for the homeless at John Street in Derry in the early hours of Friday, 2 August. It was the latest in a series of sectarian attacks in the Foyle Road area over the last week.

The loyalists had gathered in the nearby loyalist Fountain estate late on Thursday night. According to sources in Derry, the loyalist gang assaulted at least one person on the Craigavon Bridge in an indiscriminate attack before provoking a confrontation with local nationalist residents on Foyle Road.

Speaking to An Phoblacht, Sinn Féin councillor Maeve McLaughlin accused the UDA of instigating sectarian attacks and increasing sectarian tensions in Derry. She said the trouble at the bottom of the Fountain at Wapping Lane marked a shift in UDA tactics. She explained that the Bishop Street flashpoint was now quiet due to a Sinn Féin initiative and the party's efforts on the ground along with community activists to stop nationalist youths from attacking Protestant homes in the Fountain.

McLaughlin also said that an "extremely worrying" aspect of the latest incident was the fact that a number of loyalists involved in this incident may have been armed.

Over the last three months, UDA activity has been on the increase around the Derry area, with the loyalist commander for the so-called North Antrim and Derry Brigade being seen in and around the Fountain estate in recent months.

McLaughlin called on nationalists travelling around or near the Fountain to be very vigilant.


Bawnmore youth escapes abduction bid



A Catholic mother of four, Margaret O'Neill, has hit out at loyalists who tried to abduct her 19-year-old son as he waited for a lift to work on Friday morning, 2 August.

The teenager was waiting on the road outside his home when he saw three men in a car approaching him. Two of them jumped out and made towards the youth but he managed to jump over a garden wall to escape. His would be abductors threw a hammer at him before making off in the car.

An hour later, however, the loyalists returned and attacked the O'Neill home with petrol bombs. An eyewitness took the registration number of the car used in the petrol bomb attack and it was later confirmed that this was also the vehicle used in the abduction attempt.

Speaking from her Bawnmore home, which is in the Whitewell Road area of North Belfast and close to where Gerard Lawlor was shot dead two weeks ago, Margaret O'Neill admitted that her son "had a lucky escape".

She had been next door checking on her aunt when she heard a bang, she said. The loyalists threw the petrol bomb at a bedroom window but it didn't go through. The woman's husband used a fire extinguisher to out out the fire caused when the device exploded at the front of the house".

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin councillor for the area, Breige Meehan, is calling on the Housing Executive to close off a pathway that loyalists are using to attack Catholic homes in the Glenville and Abbey Glen estates.

Both estates, which are predominantly Catholic, are sandwiched between the loyalist Rathcoole and Monkstown areas on the northern outskirts of North Belfast and Meehan says loyalists have been coming along the pathway that leads into the smaller Catholic estates to attack homes.

In one of the most recent incidents, last week a woman had just lifted her newborn baby from its cot to feed it when a brick was hurled through a window. When she went back into the baby's room, she found a large rock and shards of glass lying in the cot.

Breige Meehan said that so far the attacks have been mostly carried out against property but she is worried with the recent escalation in incidents that people may soon be targeted for physical attack.

During a loyalist band parade through the area recently, the RUC\PSNI confronted a number of nationalist residents who went out to see what was going on. These residents now fear that, because the RUC\PSNI gathered around them in full view of the loyalists, they have now been singled out.

The residents have signed a petition they want Breige Meehan to present to the Housing Executive demanding that the pathway in question be closed.

"This pathway allows loyalists to attack these Catholic homes with impunity. It serves no purpose to anyone and its closure will not inflict hardship on anyone. It should closed off immediately," said Meehan.

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