24 June 2004 Edition

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Loyalist hospital rampage after 'Tour of the North' parade

Doctors and nurses had to lock patients and their families in treatment rooms as up to 40 UDA supporters ran amok in the Mater Hospital after the Tour of the North Orange Order parade on Friday 18 June.

Mater Hospital Chief Executive Seán Donaghy said staff were forced to move 20 patients and their families shortly after 10pm when the loyalist gang tried to force their way into the hospital's Accident and Emergency Unit.

Hospital staff were forced to lock the patient area after three loyalists managed to get into the hospital before a PSNI riot squad was called to disperse the thugs.

Staff were forced to keep the doors of the A&E department locked for the remainder of Friday night, with patient arrivals being monitored by CCTV.

A 15-year-old loyalist youth was arrested but was later released without charge.

Patricia McKeown of the health workers' union Unison said those involved in the attack showed no consideration for the work being carried out by staff at the Mater.

"It is thuggish elements who don't have the kind of respect for our health services or the people in need of treatment and just believe they can behave in this way."

North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Kathy Stanton accused loyalists of attacking one of society's most vulnerable targets.

"This attack on a hospital is not surprising as it follows yet another Orange march where there were clearly UDA and UVF flags on display. A large number of loyalists attending the Orange march could be seen drinking during the proceedings, while serious sectarian abuse, including the hurling of missiles, was directed at nationalist residents."

During the North Belfast Orange march, a number of UDA and UVF flags were carried by bandsmen and supporters and a number of bottles and cans were thrown at nationalist residents.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1