14 August 2003 Edition
UDA issue new threats in North West
The UDA in Derry issued a new threat of violence at a loyalist press conference in the Waterside on Thursday 7 August, when members of the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) read the paramilitary group's latest statement. The UDA cited "a nationalist failure to help police" and also stated a number of grievances against republicans and so-called republican dissidents.
"The UDA view with deep suspicion the nationalist community's contribution to supporting policing structures when they have demonstrably shown that they are not prepared to co-operate with the PSNI," it read.
UPRG spokesman David Nicholl described the UDA statement as a "shot across the bows" and said it was possible the UDA would return to sectarian violence in the North West. Waterside Sinn Féin councillor Lynn Fleming challenged the UDA to demonstrate clearly that their campaign against Catholics has ended and that their extensive drug dealing and other criminal activities had ceased, rather than issue further threats against the nationalist community.
Fleming said the statement "will do nothing to convince the nationalist community that violent unionism is serious about engaging in the peace process and serious about going on cessation.
"Within the last six months UDA activity has diminished, however they have killed at least one man and carried out numerous sectarian assaults and attacks on Catholics. These are not the actions of an organisation on ceasefire."
Briege Meehan threatened
The PSNI has visited the home of Newtownabbey Sinn Féin councillor Briege Meehan to warn her that she is under death threat from unionist paramilitaries using the name the "Loyalist Action Force" and acting in support of Orangemen.
The threat was made through the PSNI confidential telephone line by an anonymous female caller who warned that if "Sinn Féin women in the Hightown/Glengormley area do not stop interfering with Orange Parades they (LAF), will begin to throw bombs and grenades". The caller mentioned two names.
An Phoblacht has learned a second woman from North Belfast has also been threatened by unionist paramilitaries. The woman, a community worker in the area, has been threatened by loyalist paramilitaries in the past.
Speaking to An Phoblacht, Meehan told how the PSNI visited her home at 8.10am on Saturday 9 August to inform her of the threat. Meehan said she was angry but not surprised that the PSNI have failed to provide her with the full details of the threat.
"All the female PSNI member handed me was a sheet of paper with the threat. She would not tell me who this group are or exactly the precise nature of the threat. 'That's all I know,' she said to me."
Meehan told our reporter if the threat was designed to make her stop addressing the issue of Orange Parades through nationalist areas it will fail. "The people of Glengormley have the right to live free from sectarian harassment. The Orange Order should immediately sit down with local residents to discuss an amicable solution to contentious marches and not rely on threats by their unionist paramilitary supporters," she said.
In July an Orange Order parade consisting of 10,000 members converged on the centre of Glengormley while the nationalist Elmfield area was put under virtual curfew by members of the PSNI and British Army.
On Saturday 9 August, Apprentice boys dismounted from buses at the Ballyclare Road and marched along the Antrim Road and past St Bernard's Catholic Church, where Mass was being said. This was after they returned from the Apprentice Boys' parade in Derry.
Meanwhile Meehan has called on nationalists to be vigilant after a young nationalist in Glengormley was threatened by an armed man shortly after 9.30pm on Saturday 9 August. The Catholic teenager was threatened by a masked man with a gun, one of five occupants of a black Citroen Saxo car in the Hydebank area. The frightened teenager ran off and his parents reported the incident to the PSNI.
Meehan said this was a very serious incident: "With the sectarian killings of Gavin Brett, Gerard Lawlor, Trevor Lowry and Daniel McColgan in recent years, people of this area are now worried that is only a matter of time before someone else is killed by unionist paramilitaries."
Belfast homes petrol bombed
On Sunday 10 August, nationalist homes in Cupar Street, just off the Springfield Road in West Belfast, came under loyalist petrol bomb attack for the second consecutive night.
On Saturday night, 9 August, up to ten devices had been thrown across the 'peaceline' at houses in Cupar Street from the loyalist Mayo Link. On Sunday night, a further 12 petrol bomb were thrown into the back gardens of the nationalist homes. No damage was reported on either occasion.
Falls Sinn Féin councillor Tom Hartley said it was only through good fortune that nobody was seriously injured during the sectarian attack.
"So far this summer has been relatively quiet and I can only hope these sustained attacks are not an attempt to restart tensions along the interface," he said. "I have been in discussions with local community leaders and I hope dialogue can take place to ensure that we do not have a repeat of the last two nights' attacks."
Residence attacked for sixth time
A dream home being built by a Catholic family in Desertmartin, County Derry has been burnt down in an arson attack by loyalists, the sixth attack since construction began several years ago.
The house, on the Tobermore Road in Desertmartin, was gutted by fire around 2.30am on Tuesday 12 August. The family had hoped to move into their new home within weeks, but will now have to wait for it to be partly demolished and rebuilt.
In previous sectarian attacks the building was also badly damaged by fire, the Catholic father of five, who does not wish to identified, said. Loyalists have broken a total of 42 window panes in other attacks and on the last two occasions gas cylinders and tyres were used to set fire to the premises.
"But that's nothing like the damage today," he said. "It must have been petrol bombed. My home is simply destroyed, burnt down."
Sinn Féin Councillor Sean Kerr said a group of unionist paramilitaries are operating in South Derry with the sole intention of intimidating Catholics.
Two Catholic schoolboys were attacked and robbed by a group of loyalists as they left York Street train station North Belfast on Wednesday night, 6 August.
The 13- and 14-year-olds had just returned from swimming at the Maysfield Leisure Centre and were leaving the station when they were approached by older teenagers wearing Glasgow Rangers shirts along with an older man, also wearing a Rangers top.
Racist mob targets tourists
A group of English tourists, some of whom were black, were subjected to an unprovoked racist attack outside a Chinese restaurant in the loyalist Donegall Pass, near Belfast city centre at around 4.20am on Saturday 9 August.
PSNI members were called to the scene after a loyalist mob gathered outside the restaurant.
The mob threw stones and bottles at the tourists and also hurled racist abuse at them before a stand off developed.
A 17-year-old youth from Belfast was arrested in relation to the incident but was later released pending reports with a view to prosecution.
Three loyalists face drugs rap
Three loyalists appeared in a Belfast court on Thursday 7 August charged with the largest seizure of cannabis ever discovered in the Six Counties.
36-year-old Nigel Carter from Rossal in Fleetwood, Lancashire, 40-year-old Stephen Martin from Winslow Grove, Carrickfergus, and 28-year-old Stephen Spence from Glenlea Park, Belfast, were remanded on bail on charges of possession with intent to supply and possession of nearly 1,200 lbs of cannabis resin.
PSNI chiefs have linked the £2.5 million worth of drugs recovered from a lorry parked in an industrial estate on the Woodburn Road in Carrickfergus, County Antrim on Wednesday 6 August to the UDA and the Loyalist Volunteer Force.