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24 October 2002 Edition

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Catholic man fights for his life

A 29-year-old Catholic man is fighting for his life after being attacked by two loyalists outside his Gardenmore flat in Larne on Tuesday night 22 October.

Gerard McRandall left Dan Campbell's public bar and returned home before leaving again to visit a local hot food bar. As he returned to his flat, he was attacked by two loyalists, who repeatedly kicked him in the head, leaving him seriously injured in hospital.

In July this year, 16-year-old Kieran Maxwell was attacked by loyalists with iron bars and golf clubs. He suffered a compound fracture of the skull as well as other injuries to his body and face.

Residents of the Seacourt estate in Larne have told An Phoblacht how gangs of UDA men roam the town hunting for Catholics to attack, while the RUC/PSNI look on. Given the recent escalation in sectarian attacks on Catholics in the town, people are worried that someone will be killed.

Also in Larne, a masked gunman this week put a gun to the head of a 34-year-old Catholic mother of four before ordering her to leave her home.


Short Strand teen has lucky escape



Unionist bombers could have killed three teenagers and a man in his fifties in a pipe bomb attack on the nationalist Short Strand area of East Belfast on Tuesday night, 22 October.

The bombers threw the device into Bryson Street in the Short Strand area at the end of a series of attacks on nearby St Matthew's Chapel.

Sinn Féin councillor Joe O'Donnell said that St Matthew's was bombarded for an hour and a half in an attempt by the loyalists to draw nationalists into conflict at the Lower Newtownards Road.

When the loyalists could not get nationalists to respond to their sectarian attacks they went into Susan Street and threw the pipe bomb over the interface. The teenagers were walking down Mountforde Road when they saw a flash and heard the explosion. One of the youths, Noel Brady, was taken to hospital after shrapnel from the pipe bomb lodged in his hip and the elderly man also suffered shrapnel injuries.

O'Donnell said he will be making representations to the NIO to have an extension built on top of the existing peaceline.


UDA weapons store found



Sinn Féin councillor Breige Meehan has called for forensic and ballistic reports on guns found in a UDA arms dump to be released immediately.

The huge arsenal of UDA weapons was discovered in the roof space of a house in the loyalist Rathcoole estate on the outskirts of North Belfast.

A 38-year-old man was arrested after five sub machine guns, four handguns and a shotgun were recovered on Tuesday, along with thousands of rounds of ammunition. An anti-personnel keyhole bomb, previously used by the UDA, was also uncovered.

Meehan said the find of a keyhole bomb was a very sinister development: "This type of bomb is designed to go off when someone opens a door, we should be very careful now we know the UDA have these types of bombs."

"We have had four killings carried out by the UDA recently in this area," she said. "Ciaran Cummins was killed as he waited for a lift to work, Gavin Brett was killed mistakenly for a Catholic, Danny McColgan was killed as he arrived for work in Rathcoole and in July this year 18-year-old Gerard Lawlor was killed. We all know these killings were carried out by the UDA but no one has ever been arrested or charged with these killings.

"The question that needs answered now is were any of these weapons used in any of these killings? We need answers," said Meehan.

The UDA's North Belfast commander, Andre Shoukri, was arrested in the same loyalist housing estate last month and charged with possessing an illegal weapon.


Trade unionist condemns loyalist threats


UNISON secretary Patricia McKeown has condemned loyalist threats against three Catholic Belfast city council workers after they were forced to leave the loyalist Westland estate in North Belfast on Thursday 17 October.

Two loyalists armed with baseball bats told the Catholic refuse collectors not to come back into the estate to clear anymore refuse.

McKeown has called on all politicians to stand up and make it absolutely clear that these threats are unacceptable and can never be excused.

"There can be no place for this sort of behaviour in society, unfortunately this sort of thing has never ever stopped and over the last eighteen months it has been particularly vicious in areas like North Belfast" she said.

Sinn Fein councillor Eoin Ó Broin said such intimidation only serves to further heighten tensions in an already tense climate. "I am calling on unionist politicians such as Nelson McCausland and Nigel Dodds to be present in the Westland area to ensure the safety of Catholic council workers."

The threats against the Catholic workers follow riots in the Westland last week, when unionist gunmen fired 20 shots at three RUC/PSNI vehicles.


Derry taxi driver recruitment attempt


A Derry taxi driver has said he is living in fear after a member of RUC Special Branch tried to recruit him into becoming an informer. The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, claimed a man he had been ferrying around the city over the last six months informed him of his identity on Monday 14 October and warned him he is being watched by the RUC/PSNI.

"The man told me his name was John and told me where I had been and who I was with on several occasions," he said.

The taxi driver said after he told the Special Branch member he did not want to be involved he claimed that 'John' warned him not to think about dumping his mobile phone as a call would be forthcoming.

This driver claimed he has been left very shaken by this ordeal and he fears for himself and his young family. He said that in conversation with John he was told the RUC/PSNI had wanted to talk to him several times over the past few months but he had always had a fare in his car.

"I have never been involved with the Republican Movement and I have no desire at all to do this and have said no. It is frightening to think that I and my family have been under surveillance over this time and it's hard to feel safe under those circumstances" said the man.

Sinn Féin councillor Paul Fleming said he was not surprised by the attempted recruitment. "It's very hard for leopards to change their spots; the war against the nationalist community by members of the RUC Special Branch is ongoing. This is the second time in two weeks that the Special Branch have tried to coerce nationalists into acting as informers."

The taxi driver has since consulted his solicitor.

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An Phoblacht
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