3 July 2003 Edition

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Sectarian victim in critical condition

The attempted murder of a 20-year-old John Stewart by loyalists in Ballynahinch last weekend was the most serious of a series of attacks in the County Down town in recent months.

Ballynahinch's 50% Catholic population has been targeted by loyalists from the Langley Road estate. And in the run up to this year's marching season, loyalists have festooned the town with loyalist flags including UDA, UVF, YCV, Ulster Flags and Union Jacks. UVF and YCV flags have been erected outside a Catholic primary school and the local library.

The attack on John Stewart from Dunmore, near Ballynahinch, occurred at around 4am on Sunday 29 June as the young man was returning home with a group of friends after a night out at the Met nightclub in Armagh when their bus broke down on the outskirts of Ballynahinch.

As the youths walked into the town, they were accosted by a gang who emerged from a loyalist bonfire site near the Langley estate and attacked the bus, breaking windows in the vehicle.

According to one of those present, the loyalist attackers made a phone call and within minutes a car carrying up to five more loyalists came onto Lisburn street. These got out of the car and set about the Catholic youths with baseball bats.

Three managed to evade the loyalist mob but Stewart was caught and savagely beaten. He was rushed to hospital suffering a brain haemorrhage and underwent a five-hour operation.

As An Phoblacht goes to press, John Stewart remains in a critical condition in intensive care in a Belfast hospital, where his family are maintaining a bedside vigil.

Meanwhile, Andrew Thomas Steenson, a 35-year-old kitchen sprayer from Langley Road, was charged with the attempted murder of Stewart when he appeared at Newtownards court on Tuesday 1 July. He was remanded in custody until 10 July. Two others are still being questioned.

Gildernew calls for inquiry into RIR killer

Michelle Gildernew has called for an independent inquiry into how a member of the British Army's Royal Irish Regiment, despite suffering mental health problems, was given back his personal protection pistol, which he then used in the sectarian killing of 27-year-old Colin Foy in a Tyrone hotel.

29 year old Glen Graham Stronge, a lance corporal in the Royal Irish Regiment, with an address at the RIR base at the Denary in Clogher, was sentenced to nine years at Belfast court on Monday 30 June. The court was told that because of Stronge's deteriorating medical history his personal issued weapon had been taken from him, but he found it "straightforward" to have it returned to him without any questions being asked.

Judge McCollum said: "If a rigourous inquiry was not already taking place, there should be such an inquiry to discover exactly how this was the case."

Foy was shot in the back of the head as he sat chatting with friends in the bar of the Four Winds hotel in Fivemiletown on 28 October 2001.

After the killing, Stronge took a taxi to the nearby RUC barracks at Clogher, where he gave himself up to the RUC. Reports said that in the aftermath of the shooting Stronge said he had "just shot a Taig".

Gildernew is calling for an independent inquiry to find out who authorised this man to be let out in public with a gun to commit a sectarian killing.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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