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9 January 2003 Edition

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UDA plants pipe bomb at Holy Cross

Holy Cross Primary Girls School in north Belfast has once again become the target of loyalist paramilitaries.

Children returning from the Christmas break were taken to classes through an emergency back exit when parents received news that a pipe bomb had been found fastened to the front gates of the school.

The device was discovered by the school caretaker at around 8am on Monday morning and was later defused by the British Army.

The Red Hand Defenders, a cover name for the UDA, claimed responsibility for the attack and issued a further threat to the staff and pupils of the school, saying Holy Cross had one week to close its doors for good.

The Chairman of the Holy Cross Board of Governors, Father Aiden Troy, said it was his hope the bomb was an isolated incident, adding that the Board had no intention of closing the school.

"Great care will be taken to make sure the school will be examined before anyone goes near it," he said.

The families of Holy Cross are still suffering the effects of the past loyalist blockade, and so many parents chose not to tell their children the real reason for their unsheduled morning detour. Some simply took their daughters home while others said the front gates had been frozen shut by the cold. Once the children reached the school, classes continued as usual.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly said the attack was a cynical attempt by the UDA to draw attention away from their own internal feud.

"Unionist politicians and community workers must do all in their power to end such attacks," said Kelly, "We have, in recent days, seen unionist politicians be highly outpoken in their calls for loyalists to end their feud. Unionists need to be as vocal in their calls for attacks upon nationalists to end."

Startled awake from his moral coma, MP for the area Nigel Dodds publically condemned the bomb, saying he was "utterly appauled" by the incident.

"What on earth any organisation hopes to gain by this sort of action is beyond all right thinking people. It's without logic, it's without common sense, as well as being totally and utterly morally repugnant."

But Dodds repeatedly refused to meet with parents from the school when the violence of the loyalist blockade was in full swing, in spite of the fact that they were his constituents.

Parents of Holy Cross students are taking the threat very seriously and their apprehension and anger is growing. Tensions are already building in anticipation of what might take place after the threatened one-week 'deadline' passes.

For twelve weeks in 2001, the families of Holy Cross suffered a continuous loyalist siege that still staggers the imagination. They endured pipe and blast bombs, the threat of snipers, the violence of protesting loyalists and all the uncertainty and terror that the very worst loyalist thugs could direct their way.

Back then, the UDA issued the threat that it would shoot any parents taking their children up to Holy Cross and though the 'protest' may have eventually been 'suspended', the UDA has never lifted its threat against the parents.


Pipe bomb attack at Holy Cross as unionist violence continues


"I am disappointed that the first school day of the New Year has been marred in this way for the children but I am hopeful that this will be a year of peace and reconciliation," said Anne Tanney.

The Principal of Holy Cross School was speaking after a pipe bomb was discovered strapped to the school gates shortly before pupils of the North Belfast Catholic primary school were due to arrive back after the Christmas holidays.

The device was discovered shortly after 8.30am on Monday morning, 6 January. Fearing for their safety, some children were taken home by parents, while others attended classes at the back of the school while the bomb was defused.

"The school was very much business as usual, both during and after the defusing of the bomb," said Tanney, "but I am extremely saddened that it happened. I am disappointed."

"The children were kept to the back of the school and away from the operation," said chairman of the board of governors Fr Aidan Troy, "but they knew in their hearts that something wasn't quite right.

"So many devices turn out to be hoaxes and we were working on the assumption that this was a hoax," said Fr Troy. "It was chilling to find that this was the real thing."

Holy Cross became the focus of paramilitary intimidation and attack in 2001, when loyalists from Glenbryn mounted a blockade, hurling sectarian abuse, bottles, stones and a number of pipe bombs at pupils and their parents as they walked to school.

After intense international pressure, the unionist blockade was suspended but under terms which denied the children and families of Holy Cross any guarantee of security. The right of Catholic children to walk to school unmolested became the 'gift' of violent unionism, to be suspended at will.

This latest attack confirms not only the continuing vulnerability of the pupils of Holy Cross but also the deeply sectarian nature of the unionist veto. Anti-Agreement unionism hopes to deny political representation and progress, violent unionism seeks to deny the exercise of equal citizenship in all aspects of daily life.

A caller using a cover name for the UDA claimed responsibility for the attack and as an editorial in the Irish News pointed out, there will inevitably be speculation that the largest unionist paramilitary organisation is attempting to deflect attention from its vicious internal feud.

Meanwhile, two loyalists, brothers William and Edward Hill, have been charged in connection with the killing of David Cupples. The 25-year-old kitchen porter was savagely beaten in the mistaken belief he was a Catholic. He died in hospital on Christmas Day.

David Cupples was attacked on the morning of Sunday 22 December in the predominantly Clifton Park Avenue area of North Belfast, shortly after being dropped off on the Crumlin Road. It is believed that the assailants targeted Cupples because he was walking towards the nationalist Cliftonville Road.

The fatal beating took place in full view of a manned surveillance watchtower and just a few hundred yards from Girdwood British Army barracks, ironically where Cupples was employed as a member of the civilian catering staff.

PSNI detectives investigating the Cupples killing raided Johnny Adair's home. A close associate of Adair's is believed to be a prime suspect.

Earlier in the week, a North Belfast family narrowly escaped injury when a pipe bomb exploded at their home in Glenpark Court off the Old Park Road. The attack was later claimed in the name of the Red Hand Defenders, a cover for the UDA.

Twenty-four hours later, masked and armed loyalists threatened a Catholic woman, her sister and their children after the family group had attended a Leisure Centre off the Albertbridge Road in East Belfast.

Meanwhile, internecine feuding within the UDA continued unabated throughout the Christmas and New Year period. Jonathon Stewart was shot dead in the kitchen of a house in North Belfast on 27 December. Stewart was killed just yards from where David Cupples had been beaten to death days earlier.

It is believed that the 22-year-old Protestant was targeted because he was related to leading UDA loyalists Alan McClean and Winkie Dodds. McClean and Dodds recently fled the lower Shankill after a dispute with Johnny Adair.

McClean and another loyalist, William Mullan had been ordered by Adair to leave the north of Ireland but returned to Belfast under the protection of another UDA faction.

Loyalist spokesperson Sammy Duddy blamed elements linked to Adair and White for the killing. "C company wanted to send a message to the McClean family and shooting this young lad dead was the way they went about it," Duddy said.

Feuding within loyalist paramilitaries has claimed nearly a dozen lives over the past two years. Ironically, while Stewart died at the hands of Adair's faction, the opposing UDA faction has targeted the home of his partner's family twice in recent weeks.

Immediately following the Stewart killing, a lone UDA gunman shot the sister of Jackie McDonald, the South Belfast leader, along with her fiance. Both escaped with minor injuries. McDonald is also an opponent of Adair. Meanwhile, there has been a series of bomb attacks against John White, close to Adair and John Gregg, the South East UDA leader opposed to Adair.

Gregg has been targeted three times in two weeks. Two pipe bombs have been discovered at Gregg's Rathcoole home and a third device under his car.

A number of shots were fired into the Carnmoney home of loyalist spokesperson Tommy Kirkham after he publicly blamed Adair's 'henchmen' for over 20 attacks.

The home of a loyalist in Brae Hill area of North Belfast was also targeted. Shots were fired on 22 December in the Clareglen area close to Ballysillan Park in North Belfast.

Associates of Adair were blamed after a Belfast pub owned by East Belfast loyalist Jim Gray was ram raided on St Stephen's Day. The attack followed a call by the UDA leadership for elements in North Down to abandon Adair and accept control by the East Belfast UDA Commander.

On 2 January, Roy Green, a loyalist linked to Adair, was gunned down as he left the Kimberley Bar in South Belfast on Thursday evening. The dead man is believed to have been lured to the bar by his killers on the pretext of a UDA meeting to discuss the ongoing feud with Adair.

After the killing, the UDA released a statement claiming Green had been shot for 'treason'. The mainstream UDA claimed that Green had received two weapons from the lower Shankill to be used in a murder bid against a senior UDA figure in south Belfast.

Green, who was 34, was recently released from jail after serving a two-year sentence for illegal drugs offences. Adair's associate John White said he believed Green had been killed because of his critical view of the UDA leadership.

Graffiti threatening Adair appeared in Belfast's North Queen's Street while rumours have suggested that the UDA has placed a £40,000 bounty on Adair's head. Six of Adair's close associates have reportedly deserted him following the Stewart killing.

But as a loyalist commentator pointed out, while mainstream UDA may have the greater numbers, it is Adair's Company that have been foremost in the killing for the last 30 years.

According to recent PSNI statistics, loyalist paramilitaries were responsible for 114 shootings and 89 serious assaults in 2002. As well as Jonathan Stewart and Roy Green, loyalists have been connected to at least nine other recent deaths:

Catholic postman Daniel McColgan, killed by the UDA in Rathcoole. Gerard Lawlor, identified as a target by the UDA because he was wearing a Celtic football top. David Cupples, killed in the mistaken belief he was a Catholic. Stephen Warnock, Thomas Gray, Alex Mckinley and Mark Apsley, killed as a result of loyalist feuding. William Campbell, a UDA member who died when the pipe bomb he was carrying exploded, and Stephen McCullough, a member of the UDA found dead at the bottom of Cave Hill after he apparently offered information to the PSNI investigating the McColgan killing.

Breaking News

Just hours before the funeral of feud victim Roy Green, an associate of Johnny Adair, two masked loyalist gunmen burst into the Carrickfergus home of Robert Ewart. The 37-year-old was shot several times and rushed to hospital, where his condition has been described as critical.

The gunmen were reported as having fled on foot over waste ground into the Castlemara estate, a stronghold of the mainstream UDA.

Within hours of the Ewart shooting, a pipe bomb exploded outside Adair's Shankill Road home.


Six-year-old twins escape attack

Two six-year-old twin boys escaped serious injury when a loyalist pipe bomb exploded in their Glenpark Court home off the Oldpark Road in North Belfast in the early hours of Thursday 19 December.

The pipe bomb had been pushed through the letterbox of their home into the hallway, where it exploded, blasting huge chunks out of the walls and destroying the front door.

The Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by the UDA and LVF, claimed responsibility for the sectarian attack.

Unionist gunmen threaten sisters and children

A Catholic woman, her sister and her children were threatened by armed unionists as they left Avoniel Leisure Centre, off the Albertbridge Road in East Belfast on Thursday night 19 December.

The four-strong gang called the women "Fenian bastards" and told not to come back into the area.

Sinn Féin councillor for the area, Joe O'Donnell, advised people to be vigilant as they travel in and out of loyalist areas.

Primary school targeted

Sinn Féin Ballymoney councillor Philip McGuigan has pointed the finger at unionist councillors after a Catholic primary school in Rasharkin, County Antrim, was evacuated on Thursday 19 December following the discovery of an elaborate hoax left by loyalists.

"I blame unionist politicians for hyping up a so-called bomb hoax at Rasharkin Primary school a few weeks ago that actually turned out to be a tool box stolen from a garden shed and dumped at the school," said McGuigan. "Again we are in a situation where loyalists, reacting to statements made by unionist politicians, are targeting Catholic primary school children."


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