7 November 2002 Edition
Crucifixion, loyalist violence continues
BY LAURA FRIEL
"If this lad had not been a Catholic," said David Ervine of the PUP, "would crucifixion have been an option? I think not."
There were rumours. In West Belfast, by mid morning on Saturday, news had been just beginning to filter through the community network that a young Catholic from Poleglass had been discovered, beaten unconscious and nailed to a wooden stile close to the loyalist Seymour Hill estate in Dunmurry.
Within 24 hours, the Sunday newspapers were carrying full colour photographs of 23-year-old Harry McCartan in a life support unit, bloody, bruised beyond recognition and bandaged. His face had swollen to three times its normal size. The family had identified him by a tattoo on one arm.
In the photographs, his hands were still impaled on sections of the wooden crossbars. He had been cut free from the fencing by the fire brigade, but the loyalist gang who nailed Harry McCartan, crucifixion-style, had hammered the nails in such a way as to render escape impossible.
Harry McCartan is a car thief with a string of convictions. His anti-social behaviour has brought nothing but sorrow and strife to his family and community. When loyalists dragged the 23-year-old 'joy rider' from his car in the early hours of Saturday morning, the outcome was never going to be anything other than brutal.
And then the gang realised they had a Catholic.
Documentation found strewn at the scene has confirmed that the gang identified Harry McCartan as a Catholic with a home address in the nationalist Poleglass estate. Of course, ritualistic torture and killing is nothing new to loyalism. The most infamous loyalist gang to indulge in this sectarian terror tactic was the Shankill Butchers, but this is the first time crucifixion has appeared as a method.
And it is shocking and it is horrendous, as abhorrent as the racists' burning cross and lynching. And for the northern nationalist community living in a sectarian state, it holds a symbolism far beyond the immediate individual act of violence.
Despite attempts to distance loyalist paramilitaries from the attack, the gang who carried out the crucifixion are believed to be members of the UDA.
Graffiti that appeared shortly afterwards naming the victim and threatening more crucifixions also referred to the UDA motto, Quis Separatum, and was signed "South Belfast UFF", another name for the UDA. Other graffiti appearing in the loyalist Seymour Hill estate threatened to "nail" more people.
In the end, Harry McCartan was 'lucky' - to be found relatively quickly in the remote spot in which he had been abandoned, and to have survived his physical injuries (he has yet to survive the trauma). He is expected to make a good, if slow, recovery.
Last month, the sectarian gang who attacked Larne Catholic Gerard McRandal did not indulge in any ritualistic terror. The brutality they employed was familiar enough, an unprovoked and brutal attack in which their victim was repeatedly kicked in the head.
This week marks Gerard's 30th birthday but 13 days after surviving the loyalist attack, no one will be celebrating.
Gerard McRandal was attacked just yards from his home in Gardenmore Flats after spending an evening with his mother at a local bar. He had returned home but later decided to collect a take away meal from a local outlet. He was attacked on his way back home.
Gerard survived but suffered irreversible brain damage. Still critically ill, he is unable to recognise his family and friends and remains unaware of time and place. It is unlikely that Gerard will ever return home or be able to perform the basic tasks of life, like feeding or caring for himself.
Mahood faked attack
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that claims by UDA leader Davy Mahood that his car had been fired upon by republicans were part of a deliberate fabrication and in fact Mahood himself had faked the whole incident.
In September, Mahood claimed to have survived a republican murder attempt. Earlier a similar claim had led to the loyalist killing of Catholic teenager Gerard Lawlor and the serious wounding of another Catholic man in what loyalist paramilitaries dubbed a restrained military response.
Now it appears Mahood, a close associate of Adair and White, may have been involved in a bid to destabilise relations between various loyalist groupings in an internecine turf war. Adair and White were subsequently expelled from the UDA. Last week, the UDA claimed Mahood had engaged in "subversive activity" after shooting him in a 'punishment' style attack.
A second leading loyalist, Sammy Duddy, escaped serious injury after a gun attack on his North Belfast home. Two loyalist gunmen fired through the front door before running from the scene. A threat from the 'Tigers Bay Reaction Force', a non-existent grouping, preceded the attack. The cover name has been linked to Adair's C Company.
The UDA and LVF subsequently issued a statement declaring the feud between warring loyalist factions to be over. The paramilitary 'truce' was announced following talks between rival factions in a County Down hotel.
Sinn Féin's North Belfast Assembly member, Gerry Kelly, warned nationalists to be vigilant following the loyalist statement. "Time and time again differences between the disparate groups within loyalism are overcome by directing an increased number of attacks against nationalists and Catholics," he said.
Sectarian attacks in Waterside
Sinn Féin councillor Lynn Fleming has hit out at unionist paramilitaries after sectarian attacks against Catholics in the Waterside area of Derry on Thursday 31 October.
At around 8.15pm on Halloween night, a 20-year-old Catholic man and his 16-year-old Protestant girlfriend sitting in a car had a gun pointed at their heads as eight masked men armed with golf clubs emerged from an alleyway at Winchester Park in the Kilfennan Estate.
The young couple suffered cuts when the windscreen was shattered and the loyalists then made an attempt to pull the young man out of the car. He escaped by driving at speed out of the area. It is understood the man had been previously threatened by unionist paramilitaries.
Meanwhile, in another part of the Waterside, a Catholic man had a lucky escape as two shots were fired at his Milltown Crescent home, also on Thursday night.
He was in his home when he heard activity in the back yard. As he went to investigate, two shots were fired into the house. Two bullets were later recovered from the interior.
An increasing number of Catholic families have moved into the Kilfennan area of the Waterside in recent years.
Strabane mother treated like a criminal
A Strabane mother of four had a nightmare experience when a PSNI raiding party brought terror to her Ballycolman home. The 39-year-old single parent, who wants to remain anonymous, described how members of the PSNI kicked in her front door and men wearing boiler suits and rubber gloves ran up the stairs shouting "freeze, nobody move".
"When I asked why they didn't knock the door, they told me they thought no one was at home but the lights and television were on," said the woman.
She was ordered into the kitchen and was informed that her intruders had a warrant to search the house for drugs, money and documentation, but in the event, the PSNI quizzed her about guns and ammunition. "They didn't even have a policewoman in the house and I thought there should have been. It was a very frightening ordeal I felt like a criminal."
Sinn Féin councillor Brian McMahon said the raid was a very heavy-handed act against a young family. He said the PSNI had using the false pretext of looking for drugs when actually they separated the family and took them to different rooms to question them about guns.
"Is this the new police service we are being offered? It is the same RUC thuggish attitude to people," he said. "Those political parties who have told us that this is the beginning to policing are living in cloud cuckoo land."
PSNI harass community workers
The Derry-based Northwest coordinator of the Community Restorative Justice (CRJ) group has told An Phoblacht of ongoing harassment directed at members of his group by members of the PSNI.
Noel McCartney was on his way to a meeting with other restorative justice members in the Creggan area of Derry on Wednesday night 30 October when he was followed by members of the PSNI.
According to McCartney, the PSNI members spotted him in his car and immediately put on their sirens and flashing lights and signalled him to pull in to the side of the road.
"They asked me by name to show them my driving licence and insurance details and not once did they look in the car or anything," he said. "This is just barefaced harassment against members of the Community Restorative Justice group in Derry and are trying to humiliate and embarrass us by the continuing stopping our members for no reason at all."
A number of people have contacted the CRJ offices in Derry to register their disgust at the actions of the PSNI in relation to the harassment and have commented that nothing has changed for the nationalist people of Derry in this so-called new beginning to policing.
"This is a concerted campaign by the PSNI to try to prevent us from doing our work effectively and they are hoping to provoke a response from our members which would allow the PSNI to arrest and charge them," commented McCartney.
Council business must be transparent
Derry Sinn Féin Councillor Cathal Crumley has demanded that the City Council conduct its business in a fully public manner after information concerning the funnelling of grant aid from the local authority was leaked to the press.
The public and press are asked to leave for some elements of council business, but following a series of leaks of information, Sinn Féin is now calling for all business conducted in the council chamber to be open to the public.
"Derry City Council is a laughing stock when it comes to confidentiality and manages to have the worst of both worlds," said Crumley. "There exists a culture of secrecy that pervades the entire work of the Council, while at the same time you cannot open a paper without seeing another leak."
He said he understood some matters have to be kept confidential, such as employment records, tenders and suclike, "however we need to approach council business as being of interest to the public".
GAA club targeted in arson
A GAA club in the mainly Unionist town of Holywood in North County Down has been damaged in a sectarian petrol bomb and paint bomb attack on Monday 4 November.
Two petrol bombs were thrown on to the roof of St Paul's GAA club on the Belfast Road. One ignited, causing scorch damage, while the other failed to explode. A paint bomb was thrown at the front of the building.
A passing motorist noticed the flames and raised the alarm.
Members of the PSNI took away several items from the scene for forensic examination and in a later follow up search of a house in the Holywood area several items were removed and a 16- year-old youth was arrested and later freed on bail.
St Paul's GAA officials declined to make any comment.