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3 October 2002 Edition

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US Congressmen tackle Reid on Short Strand

A group of American Congressmen have accused the British government of failing to protect East Belfast Catholics against loyalist attack.

In a letter to British Secretary of State John Reid, the five representatives condemned the failure of the RUC/PSNI to stop loyalist attacks on the small nationalist enclave. Joe Crowley, Ben Gilman, Jim Walsh, Richard Neal and Peter King said that such inaction only lent weight to the theory that the British Government and Unionist politicians wanted to force the IRA into breaking their ceasefire.

The five cited the case of a reporter from the US-based Irish Voice newspaper who "witnessed a member of the RUC/PSNI assault squad damaging a water hose erected by residents to put out fires caused by loyalist attacks on the Short Strand".

In the last week, loyalist attacks on the nationalist Short Strand have intensified, with petrol and paint bombs being thrown at pensioners' bungalows in the Strand Walk area of the district.

Last week, Ulster flags with threats against named nationalist residents written on them were thrown over the interface from Cluan Place into Clandeboye Drive.

At 10pm on Monday night, 30 September, six petrol and paint bombs were thrown by loyalists from the Newtownards Road into Strand Walk, where they set fire to the roof of a pensioner's bungalow. A number of other homes were damaged in the attack. No one was injured and residents were able to douse the flames with a fire hose they had installed themselves.

Sinn Féin councillor for East Belfast, Joe O'Donnell, has accused loyalists of attempting to spread their attacks by shifting the emphasis to other parts of the area.

"While the area around Clandeboye, Bryson Street and Madrid Street has been relatively quiet, here we have loyalists moving their sectarian attacks to Strand Walk again; we have seen cars being attacked by loyalists while entering or leaving the district. They are intent on keeping tensions high."

In the latest development, O'Donnell has called for an end to loyalist attacks on workmen erecting security fencing and repairing homes in the Clandeboye area.
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