12 September 2002 Edition
Loyalist death threat to Sinn Féin MP
Sinn Féin Fermanagh\South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has been told by the RUC/PSNI that her life is under threat from an unspecified loyalist group. Gildernew told An Phoblacht that she is angry but not surprised that the RUC/PSNI have failed to provide her with the full details of the threat.
"They will not tell me where the threat originated or exactly the precise nature of the threat," she told An Phoblacht. "As a mother of a young child I am angry that I am unable to take the appropriate security steps to ensure the safety of my family and myself until I can discover the nature of the threat."
Gildernew contacted her solicitor, who in turn has been in contact with the RUC/PSNI to ascertain the nature and source of this threat, but has had no success to date.
Gildernew added that the RUC/PSNI had taken the highly unusual step of asking her not to go public with the threat on her life.
She told An Phoblacht: "I don't believe the reason for remaining quiet is for my own safety and that to remain silent will not diminish the threat. The role of the RUC/PSNI Special Branch in all of this is extremely dubious.
This is not the first time a loyalist threat has been made on Gildernew's life.
"Loyalists have been targeting nationalists and Sinn Féin members especially throughout the past two years. The crisis within loyalism and unionism is destabilising the Peace Process and it's time for pro-Agreement unionists and loyalists to make a stand," said Gildernew.
She concluded by saying the death threat will not deflect from her resolution to see political progress and said she will continue to fight for the rights of her constituents.
Republicans' details found on loyalist
Sinn Féin national chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin was among a number of republicans warned that their personal details had been discovered in the hands of a known Derry loyalist on Sunday night 8 September.
The RUC/PSNI visited a number of people, including Sinn Féin press officer Dominic Doherty, and were told that a senior loyalist had been arrested on Friday 6 September and that their details were found in his possession. The loyalist, Mark John Pilling, was found to details of a prominent republican when he was stopped by the RUC/PSNI and the names, addresses and car registrations of up to seven republicans were found during follow up searches of his home and office.
Mitchel McLaughlin said that republicans in Derry were taking the threat very seriously and are reviewing their security.
Sources in Derry have told An Phoblacht that Pilling is a leading member of the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG). The UPRG was formed last year and is linked to the loyalist UDA.
Meanwhile Pilling, from the Waterside area of Derry, was remanded in custody on Monday 9 September after being charged with having information likely to be of use to someone committing or preparing to commit an act of terrorism.
Loyalists attack homes
Loyalists attacked homes belonging to both Catholics and Protestants in North Belfast on Saturday night 7 September and again in the early hours of Sunday 8 September.
Up to ten men armed with wooden poles, bricks and concrete blocks smashed windows of two houses at the junction of Jellicoe Avenue and Skegoniel Avenue at around 11.40pm on Saturday. They returned at 4.30am on Sunday morning and broke windows and attacked cars at the junction of Ashfield Gardens and Skegoniel Avenue.
One resident said that he saw up to ten loyalists going into gardens and breaking windows and that they returned in the early hours and broke two windows in his own home. "I have lived here for eight years and if these loyalist thugs think I'm moving they are wrong," he said. "Other people have moved out because of loyalist petrol and paint bombing their homes."
He said this was not the first time loyalists have attacked his home: "In July my car and home was petrol and paint bombed. Someone is organising these sectarian attacks; two weeks ago the bonnet of my new car was damaged."
Sinn Féin councillor Gerard Brophy said that everybody knows the UDA are behind these attacks. "These are unprovoked and orchestrated attacks. So much for the UDA's no first strike policy."
He added that every unionist and loyalist politicians should be doing more to put a stop to "these sectarian attacks on people who just want to get on with their lives".
UDA bomb attack on councillor
Newtownabbey Labour councillor Mark Langhammer, who was the target of loyalist bombers last week, says he had a lucky escape after a pipe bomb left under his car exploded during the night.
The bomb, left by the South East Antrim UDA, exploded under the vehicle, which was parked outside the Independent Labour Councillor's Shore Road home in the early hours of Wednesday 4 September.
Langhammer, however, didn't realise he had been attacked until breakfast time on Wednesday, when he noticed damage to his car as he was about to take his children to school.
Langhammer is convinced he was targeted by the UDA because of his involvement in efforts to set up an RUC/PSNI clinic in the nearby loyalist Rathcoole estate. "I will continue to work for all my constituents and to stand up for what I believe in and that will not change," he said.
Sinn Féin Newtownabbey councillor Briege Meehan told An Phoblacht that the attack was designed to intimidate the entire community. "The UDA have been very active in this area lately and everyone should be vigilant," said Meehan, who is under a death threat from the UDA.
The UDA in the South East Antrim have been behind five recent killings in the Newtownabbey area in the last two years. These include the killings of Gavin Brett, Daniel McColgan and Gerard Lawlor. The loyalist gang has also been involved in arson attacks against Catholic churches and other property.
Meanwhile, the RUC/PSNI have confirmed that the police clinic in Rathcoole, supported by Langhammer, has been shelved. According to Brendan McGuigan of the RUC\PSNI, it pulled out of the scheme because of intimidation, directed at partners in this venture by loyalists".
Monastery attacked with paint bombs
Holy Cross Monastery in North Belfast was attacked by loyalists who threw paint bombs and stones at the windows of the 100-year-old building on Tuesday night 3 September. The monastery, which backs on to the loyalist Woodvale Road, has been targeted throughout the last 30 years of the conflict. During the summer, loyalists tried to burn the chapel after setting a fire at an outside door at the back of the building.
Sinn Fein councillor Margaret McClenaghan has hit out at what she says is the "blatant harassment of a North Belfast nationalist" by the RUC\PSNI.
The woman was stopped on Monday night 2 September by members of the RUC/PSNI at a checkpoint and asked to answer a series of questions about herself.
The RUC\PSNI ordered the woman out of her car and the questioning took an extremely personal line. The frightened woman was asked to supply information about whether she had tattoos, scars and about what colour were her eyes and hair.
McClenaghan, who represents Ardoyne, told An Phoblacht that this type of personal questioning was totally uninvited and that the incident had left the woman feeling extremely anxious. "I am calling on the RUC/PSNI to explain their actions and why there was this type of questioning and harassment of a female travelling alone," she said.