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28 May 1998 Edition

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Harryville nightmare ends

The loyalist mob which has been picketing the Catholic Church of Our Lady in Harryville, Ballymena have called off their protest after almost two years.

Pickets by the loyalist crowds started in September 1996 with hundreds of protesters gathering to bay obscenities at churchgoers. There were also attacks on nationalists in Bushmills and Dervock by the loyalist communities there which included members of the UVF.

At Christmas 1996, loyalists went on the rampage through the small nationalist area, petrol bombing homes, burning vehicles and singing loyalist hate songs outside the church during the service. Parishioners were regularly verbally abused and beaten in the streets going to and from their place of worship.

All of this was able to happen despite a large RUC presence.

The cost of the loyalist aggression is well over £2m, money which would have been better spent tackling the area's soaring drugs problem, a trade which has also been linked to the local UVF.

The loyalist crowd voted last Saturday night 23 May to call off their protest but ominously added that they ``reserved the right'' to recommence their action.

Canon Sean Donnelly, who held mass at the church last Saturday, said he was ``delighted'' that the intimidation was over and that his parishioners would be ``pleased''.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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