26 September 2002 Edition
Loyalist attack St. Matthews
St Matthew's Catholic church in the Short Strand area of East Belfast came under sustained paint bomb attack from loyalists at around 7pm on Sunday 22 September, when up to 20 paint bombs were hurled at the building.
According to Sinn Fein councillor for the area, Joe O'Donnell, the bombs had wicks inserted in them and were being used like petrol bombs in an attempt to set the church on fire.
The church, recently renovated at a cost of £1.5 million, was attacked with bottles filled with white, blue and yellow paint.
One window was smashed and the paths were covered with paint, bricks and glass.
Parish priest, Father Sean Gilmore, said that the sectarian-inspired attack was also an attack on the parishioners, and that anytime gardeners cut the grass in St Matthew's grounds they are stoned by loyalists.
"These attacks have been happening constantly since May, but this is the worst so far and I'm afraid they will continue".
The paint-bomb attack on the chapel came 24 hours after a wedding party was attacked.
On Saturday the wedding, held at St Matthew's, was besieged by stone-throwing loyalists, as the party attempted to take photographs outside the church. They were forced to escape through a side-door.
Joe O'Donnell told An Phoblacht, "these attacks are about pure sectarian hatred. These are unprovoked attacks on St Matthew's and there has been no provocation from anyone in the Short Strand community.
"These are organised sectarian attacks and they are being carried out by adults, not children, on a place of worship".
St Matthew's Church, built in 1883, is one of Belfast's foremost listed buildings and has been attacked throughout the conflict. In June 1970 32-year-old Henry McIlhone was killed defending the Church from rampaging loyalists.
O'Donnell also criticised the RUC\PSNI and the British Security Minister, Jane Kennedy, because of what he termed the "bias and hostility" behind a recent scheme erecting CCTV cameras around the Short Strand. At present, cameras are being erected at the bottom of the Newtownards Road and, according to O'Donnell, "they will be used to spy on people in the Short Strand. Apart from anything else they are hundreds of yards away from the interface where loyalist are attacking the area.
"Also, there already is a camera at St Matthew's, yet it has done nothing to prevent the chapel coming under constant attack."
Shoukri on gun charge
North Belfast UDA Brigadier André Shoukri was charged in Belfast's Laganside Court with possessing a Walther pistol and 30 rounds of ammunition, with intent to endanger life, on Monday 23 September.
Shoukri, nicknamed 'the Egyptian', from Sunningdale Gardens, along with William McCullough, from Mackey Street, were arrested at Rathcoole Drive in Newtownabbey, when RUC/PSNI members stopped a Ford Sierra in which both men were travelling. The firearm and bullets were found following a search of the vehicle.
Both men were remanded in custody for a month. UDA chief Johnny Adair, along with other known UDA members, started clapping loudly from the public gallery as Shoukri and McCullough were led from the courtroom.
In July, Shoukri, as a member of the Loyalist Commission, met with the British Secretary of State John Reid.