23 October 2003 Edition

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Sectarian attacks update

Teen almost loses eye in sectarian bus attack

A 16-year-old girl has narrowly missed losing an eye after a sectarian attack on a Belfast city bus.

Young Louise McNeill, who is from the Poleglass area, was sitting in a double decker bus passing Black's Road when a brick came through the window beside her, striking her in the face and showering her with broken glass.

Several splinters of glass ended up embedded in Louise's eye and an ambulance had to be called to take the shaken teen to hospital. The incident left the girl with deep abrasions on her cornea, but so far it appears that her vision will not be affected.

The assault took place around 4pm on 20 October, and within an hour of the attack a second bus was also targeted.

Sinn Féin Assembly member for West Belfast, Michael Ferguson, (left) said that "ironically this girl was going into school to enact a political dialogue on the Peace Process in which she had agreed to take on the role of a DUP politician explaining the DUP position on the Peace Process.

"I would ask anyone in the Black's Road are with any influence to help stop these attacks. We now need to move the Peace Process forward and we all have a part to play."

Loyalist pipe-bomb attacks abandoned

Unionist paramilitaries left two pipe bombs at nationalist homes in St James Avenue, West Belfast after an aborted sectarian attack at around midnight on Thursday 16 October.

Two loyalists were spotted by a young nationalist on a bicycle driving around the St James area before they left the deadly devices on a wall outside the home of an 81-year-old widower.

The would be attackers made their escape along the Donegall Road in the direction of the loyalist village area, a UDA stronghold.

Local community worker Seán Osbourne told An Phoblacht how a number of houses have been attacked by unionist paramilitaries over the past few weeks.

"Things have moved up a notch," he said. "If someone had been walking past and these had gone off, it doesn't bear thinking about what could have happened. I would ask people from the loyalist Village area to sit down and talk to us about any problems they may have."

Sinn Féin Councillor Fra McCann said that only last week his party had highlighted the fact that unionist paramilitaries were behind over 160 sectarian attacks in the past three months.

Stoneyford family targeted 80 times in five years

it has emerged that a Catholic family from Stoneyford just outside Lisburn, who were attacked at the weekend, have now been targeted by unionist paramilitaries for the 80th time in the past five years.

Paul and Fionnuala Saunders were speaking after loyalists daubed sectarian graffiti on the walls of their home and smashed a number of windows.

"It has taken a lot for us to finally speak out like this; for years we thought if we went public it would make matters worse. But enough is enough. It is time to let people know just what is going on in this village."

The Saunders moved to Stoneyford just over five years ago and purchased the Stoneyford Inn public house, hoping to have a comfortable life.

But within weeks, the family's hopes turned sour as the sectarian attacks began on the bar and on their adjacent family home.

The couple's children have been assaulted in the street, sectarian graffiti has been painted on their walls, there have been poster campaigns threatening their lives, and countless arson attacks have seen the family narrowly escape death on more than one occasion.

The attacks on the family's premises have been orchestrated by a well known loyalist connected to the Orange Volunteers who, according to the Saunders family, cannot be prosecuted because he is a Special Branch agent.

"We were told by uniformed PSNI members that this man is working for Special Branch as an informer," said the Saunders family. "For five-and-a-half years we have suffered as these cowards hide behind their friends in Special Branch, attacking our home, our children and our business. There is no will to stop them because the ringleader is working for Special Branch."

The Saunders have called on the local Unionist MP, Jeffrey Donaldson, to do more to highlight their plight. "Not once has he knocked our door to ask if we needed help," they say.

A Sinn Féin delegation met with Irish Government officials on Tuesday 7 October to brief them on the continued campaign of sectarian attacks on nationalist homes, schools and Catholic chapels throughout the Lisburn area.

Five face UVF charges

Five loyalists appeared at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday 16 October charged with membership of the Ulster Volunteer Force, possession of equipment for carrying out acts of terrorism and conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm.

The equipment they are alleged to have been carrying included woollen balaclavas, metal batons and latex gloves.

The charges - against Jonathan Allen of Corbally Park, Clifford Allison of Garden Village, Charles McCann of Tobergill Gardens, David Watkins of Portlee Walk, all Antrim, and against Philip Allison from Derrygowan Road, Randalstown - all relate to an incident last week when two cars were stopped at a PSNI checkpoint on the Caddy Road in Randalstown.

The court was told the charge of conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm related to persons unknown.

All five defendants were remanded in custody for four weeks to appear by video link at the same court on 13 November.

Meanwhile, William Stitt from Sintonville Avenue in East Belfast has been charged with possessing 440 rounds of assorted ammunition and a silencer with intent to endanger life.

The items were found during a PSNI search of Stitt's newsagency shop at Bloomfield Avenue, Belfast on Tuesday 14 October.

Stitt was remanded in custody until 13 November.

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