31 July 2003 Edition
Loyalists up the ante
The relative calm experienced by nationalist communities during the loyalist Twelfth marching period came to a shuddering end over the last seven days as loyalist gangs attacked Catholic homes in the Stiles estate in Antrim, threatened a teenage Catholic girl in Dunmurry by putting a gun to her head and torched a Catholic church outside Magherafelt in County Derry.
In the midst of this loyalist violence, homes in the Clandeboye area of the Short Strand, which had been experiencing a period of peace since the pogroms of last summer, came under fire from loyalist youths using ball bearings and golf balls.
Not content with their attacks on Catholics, loyalist paramilitaries have shown the racist side to their makeup by erecting Nazi insignia in Ballymena and distributing White National Party literature as part of their campaign against non whites.
Gun put to girl's head
A 17-year-old girl had a gun put to her head and her two male companions, aged 14 and 26, needed hospital treatment after they attacked by up to 15 members of the UDA in Dunmurry on the outskirts of Belfast at around 5.30pm on Sunday 27 July.
The three were set upon in the car park of a vacant supermarket in the Queensway area of Dunmurry and ordered to lie on the ground by the gang, who were wearing balaclavas and were armed with a handgun, baseball bats and golf clubs.
As they lay on the ground the two males were set upon while the gunman held the gun to the girl's head as she was assaulted.
The two teenagers were treated in hospital for cuts and bruising while the 26-year-old man suffered a broken ankle and multiple cuts and bruising to his head and body.
The girl's parents, who spoke with Sinn Féin's Paul Butler, said their daughter is now terrified.
Lagan Valley Sinn Féin councillor Paul Butler described the attack as blatantly sectarian and said it was part of a coordinated and vicious anti-Catholic campaign being waged on the Catholic community by the UDA.
"This was not some group of kids. These were armed and masked UDA men. The political representatives of the UDA are continually appearing in the media assuring people that the UDA is on cessation, but the reality on the ground for Catholics in places like Dunmurry and Lisburn is very different."
Butler added that local political representatives have a role to play in stopping these sectarian attacks but unfortunately they have failed to play any part in ending these onslaughts so far.
"Instead of confronting sectarianism in Lisburn and Dunmurry, unionists have decided to institutionalise it in Lisburn Council. The exclusion of nationalists from civic positions is only one step removed from the violent incidents we have witnessed in recent weeks."
Butler called on nationalists to be very vigilant.
On 20 July, a 21year-old Catholic was seriously injured after he was attacked by a gang of 20 loyalists wielding golf clubs, iron bars and poles painted red, white and blue as he played golf at Aberdelghy Golf club, outside Lisburn. In November last year, West Belfast Catholic Harry McCartin was viciously beaten and nailed to a fence by loyalists in the Seymour Hill estate in Dunmurry.
Short Strand attacks resume
Sinn Féin's Joe O'Donnell says loyalist youths have been attacking nationalist homes in Clandeboye Drive and Clandeboye Gardens with ball bearings, golf balls and other missiles daily.
"These loyalist thugs are threatening the relative calm which exists in the Short Strand," said O'Donnell.
Car windscreens, sun roofs as well as houses have been hit by missiles fired from catapults over the interface wall from the loyalist Cluan Place.
O'Donnell said the attacks had increased since the Twelfth and people had collected sackfuls of golf balls and ball bearings fired into the area.
Sectarian campaign drives out Catholic families
A number of families living in the troubled Leckagh Drive Estate in Magherafelt, County Derry, were evacuated from their homes last Thursday 24 July as the British Army carried out a controlled explosion on a suspect device, later declared an elaborate hoax.
This was the latest act of intimidation carried out in the estate which has been plaqued by unionist paramilitary violence against Catholics over the last 18 months.
Meanwhile, the High Court in Belfast was told last week that Catholic familes are being driven from the County Derry housing estate by a campaign of sectarian intimidation. A crown lawyer told the court that Catholic residents of the Leckagh Drive estate in Magherafelt would be at risk if bail was granted to local man Robert Donnelly, who is denying a charge of collecting information useful to terrorists.
The charge relates to papers found at his Donnelly's home, including a reference to a house in the estate where a pipe bomb was found on 9 July this year. A Catholic man had recently moved into the home but was absent on the night of the attack.
The crown lawyer said the man had since left the estate because of his fears. "There is a history of sectarianism in this estate, as another family was forced out last year," he said.
The presiding judge fixed bail at £2,500, ordering Donnelly to stay out of Magherafelt but telling him he could live in Portrush.
Derry church badly damaged
An historic South Derry Catholic church has been badly damaged in a sectarian arson attack. Extensive damage was caused to the altar of St John's Church, on the main Magherafelt to Castledawson Road at around 5.30am on Saturday 26 July.
A window at the rear of the church was broken and flammable liquid was poured in. The floor at the rear of the building, which dates from the time of the penal laws in Ireland, was also badly damaged.
Parish church curate Father David Moore said it would take a lot of money to repair the damage.
The church is located yards from O'Donovan Rossa's GAA ground, which has been the target of sectarian attacks by loyalists on numerous occasions in recent years.
Armagh bomb scare
Crown forces mounted a massive security operation in South Armagh last Thursday, 24 July, after unionist paramilitaries claimed to have abandoned three bombs they were using to target Sinn Fein representatives living in the area.
In a telephone warning, the unionist paramilitaries warned that pipe bombs and a grenade were abandoned in the Camlough/Bessbrook area of County Armagh.
The Newry bypass was closed for several hours as British and PSNI personnel searched the area, although nothing was found.
County Derry SDLP politician threatened
SDLP politician John Dallat has received a sectarian threat posted form Scotland.
An envelope containing a pamphlet with a threatening message written on the back was sent to Dallat's home address. The pamphlet, headed 'Last Rites', included a comic strip about an individual named John who is seen receiving the last rites from a priest after being involved in an accident.
Dallat said it was an attack on both himself and the Catholic church.
Dallat says his home address was misspelt on the envelope, and matched the misspelling to an incident when his personal details were posted onto a loyalist web site several years ago.
PSNI accused of turning a blind eye
Denise Crudden, a Catholic mother of three, has criticised the PSNI over their handling of a sectarian attack on her Gortanure Park home in Magheraveely, County Fermanagh over the Twelfth.
Speaking to An Phoblacht Ms Crudden said that after an Orange Order march a gang of loyalists youths bombarded her home, in the mainly Protestant village of Magheraveely, with bottles, bricks and other rubble in a three-hour rampage. During the onslaught, Crudden had to hide her children in a room at the back of the house.
Crudden criticised the PSNI, who told her neighbours and the local paper that five youths were involved in the attack, but five days later a member of the PSNI told her they did not see anyone. She said the PSNI told her they responded to a call and arrived at the scene within minutes but claimed not see anyone and the area was quiet when they arrived.
Crudden says she fears more sectarian attacks in August as there are more loyalist marches.
Sinn Féin's Gerry McHugh told An Phoblacht: "The PSNI told residents of Gortanure Park that five youths were involved in this sectarian attack, but they just told them to move on. Why was no one arrested for attacking nationalist homes? There is one rule for loyalists and another for nationalists."
Loyalist supporters of the White Nationalist Party (WNP) have been erecting Nazi flags and distributing party leaflets in the loyalist town of Ballymena, County Antrim.
White Nationalist Party flags have been put up on lampposts beside the joint offices of the Social Security Agency and the Housing Executive in Twickenham House at Mount Street and in the Clonavon area of the town.
Erecting the flags at these offices is designed to intimidate black people who use these agencies.
The WNP are also behind the distribution of sectarian leaflets at Tower Centre shopping complex's car park in Ballymena last week.
The leaflets, titled 'Stand by loyal Ulster', state that 'Northern Ireland' residents who refuse to renounce allegiance to the Irish Republic should lose their British citizenship and as a result should lose their right to live on British soil.