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20 February 2003 Edition

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Sectarian attacks back with a vengeance

Postal workers targeted

Catholic postal workers based at Tomb Street, Belfast, say they are taking seriously the death threats made against three Catholic workers by the Red Hand Defenders, a cover name for the UDA, last Thursday, 13 February.

The threat was made to the Irish News office and the caller used a recognised code word.

It came as it emerged the PSNI was warning up to 300 nationalists that their personal details were found on a computer disc compiled by the UDA and recovered during searches in Carrickfergus in January.

Two managers and a postman working at the sorting office in Belfast were directly threatened in the coded warning. A postal service spokesperson confirmed that threats had been received and said "the safety of our staff is paramount and workers were given security advice before leaving for work".

The Communications Workers' Union said it was taking the threats very seriously and was considering strike action.

The UDA was responsible for the shooting dead of Catholic postal worker Danny McColgan in January 2002 as he arrived for work at a sorting office in the loyalist Rathcoole estate on the fringes of North Belfast.

Unionist paramilitaries were forced to rescind death threats they issued against postal workers last year after unions held an anti-sectarian rally at Belfast City Hall.

UDA drug dealers behind Valentine's Day cards

Community workers in West Belfast who have been threatened with death by the UDA say it is because of their anti-drugs work.

Gerry McConville from the Falls Community Council's Drugs Awareness Project received a Valentine's Day card with a live bullet inside with the words, 'Sorry we missed you before, we will see you again you bastard'.

"My wife opened the card and was terrified after finding the ammunition inside. I fear for my safety and the safety of my family. I know the UDA are behind these threats because of our anti drugs campaign".

Two other community workers Sean Osborne and Sid McBride were also visited by the PSNI and told their details were in the hands of the UDA.

McConville told An Phoblacht that they were targeted because of their stand against the UDA supplying drugs to young people in West Belfast.

Butler blames PSNI

Sinn Féin Lisburn councillor Paul Butler is accusing the PSNI of leaking his personal details to unionist paramilitaries after he received a Valentine's Day card with a bullet inside it. The card also carried the threat, "your card is marked, see you soon dead!"

The councillor found the ammunition when he opened the card, which his 11-year-old daughter brought to him on Friday morning, 14 February.

Butler said he intends to ask the Police Ombudsman's office to investigate the threat. "It is imperative the Ombudsman's office carries out a detailed investigation of the PSNI and find out who passed my information on to loyalists," he said.

Butler said that three weeks ago he applied for the Key Person's Protection Scheme from his new address and that he gave the details of his new address to the KPPS assessment unit who in turn liaise with the PSNI.

"Now within three weeks of the PSNI getting my details I am receiving a death threat through the post.

"The only people who knew where I lived were members of the key persons protection scheme, who passed it onto the PSNI and obviously someone has passed this information on to loyalist groups. It is collusion at work between the PSNI and unionist paramilitaries. I am very concerned about the safety of myself and my family and I have no faith in the PSNI investigating this issue."

The councillor has contacted his solicitor about the threat but has not decided if he will move to a new address.

Meanwhile, Butler has condemned the arson attack on Rathmore Grammar School in Dunmurry. Butler says the attack, which was carried out at around 9pm on Sunday night 16 February, was sectarian and accused loyalists of increasing the ongoing campaign against nationalists.
A cloth doused in petrol was thrown in through a smashed window at the school causing damage to equipment, books and pupils work causing an estimated £10,000 damage. It is the seventh sectarian attack on the school over the past decade. Principal Sister Ursula Canavan said a fence had been erected five years ago around the site "but no matter what measures we take if people are determined to attack your school they will".

Catholic family escape loyalist petrol bomb attack

Frank and Maureen Burleigh escaped death by clambering on to the roof of a porch after loyalists threw a petrol bomb into their Linn Road home in Larne at around 1am on Tuesday 18 February, as the family slept.

The loyalist gang used a concrete block to break open the porch window before they threw a petrol bomb in to the house engulfing the hallway and stairs in flames.

The Burleighs' 20-year-old son was forced to jump from the first floor window after being awoken by the smoke alarm. The youth was beaten back by the flames as he tried to smash down the front door to rescue his parents.

As he recovered in his daughter's home, Frank Burleigh told reporters: "These people were aiming to kill me and my family. The flames were halfway up the stairs and the smoke so thick you couldn't see anything. The only way out was to climb through a window and get onto the roof."

And a spokesperson for the fire brigade said "there could have been fatalities here, only the smoke alarm saved them".

Frank Burleigh said his family could not return to the Linn Road home and would be considering moving out of Larne. The Burleighs had only moved into their new home in September after being forced to leave their house on the Craigyhill estate in the town after more than a dozen sectarian attacks.

Burleigh went on to say that the attack was just naked sectarianism and accused unionist paramilitaries of picking on Catholic families to drive them out of Larne. "They then move onto the next Catholic family. We are not the first Catholic family to be intimidated out of Larne and I don't think we will be the last."

In 1997, loyalists were behind a bomb attack on a van owned by Frank Burleigh's son in law, John Shaw, and in October 2000 a Protestant friend of Shaw's was seriously injured when a loyalist booby trap meant for Shaw exploded near Larne.

Petrol bomb attacks in Randalstown

The homes of two Catholic families in the Neilsbrook estate in Randalstown, County Antrim, were singled out and attacked by a loyalist gang last Tuesday night, 11 February, using petrol bombs and bricks.

According to Sinn Féin's Martin Meehan, the loyalists were "roaming the estate last Tuesday at about midnight when they singled out the homes of two Catholic families for attack".

Meehan called again on local political leaders to "condemn without equivocation all recent attacks against the homes of nationalists".

Catholic workmen forced out of Lurgan

Nationalists in Lurgan are being warned to be vigilant after a group of Catholic workmen working beside the Glenavon Football Club in the loyalist Mourneview Estate were told that they had 10 minutes "to get out".

Sinn Féin Upper Bann Assembly emmber Dara O'Hagan warned: "It appears that the outworking of loyalist 'unity' is that nationalists will be targeted in their homes and at work. This is totally disgraceful and the leadership of political unionism must get its act together to end the sectarian violence emanating from within their community."

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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