29 April 1999 Edition
Ligoniel grenade attack: RUC quizzed about car
Residents of the isolated nationalist estate of Ligoniel on the outskirts of North Belfast are demanding that the RUC explain the presence of one of their vehicles in the area immediately after a grenade attack on the home of a Catholic woman on Sunday night, 25 April, at 11.40pm.
Local people who were at the scene of the attack, which was claimed by the Orange Volunteers, saw a green Mondeo, with two men on board and its lights off, drive up along the country-bound mountain road that the bombers took as they escaped from the area.
``Fifteen minutes later the same car, with two occupants, arrived at the scene of the attack and we confronted the RUC,'' said one witness. ``They admitted the car was one of theirs - a supervisor's car - but said it hadn't been out until it was sent to the scene of the attack.''
He added: ``We're sure it was the same car; the registration letters of both cars were VAZ and although we didn't get the numbers I think it is too much of a coincidence.''
The Catholic woman whose Mill Avenue home was attacked was too frightened to be identified when she talked to An Phoblacht about the incident the following day. The woman who was in the house with her young son when the no warning bomb exploded, initially thought the bomb had been aimed at the front of the house.
A grenade-type device exploded on a porch roof at the back of the house, ripping tiles off the porch but fortunately causing no other damage or injury to any of the occupants.
Still clearly nervous about the incident, the woman said that she had no idea why she should be targeted and pointed out that the grenade went off just feet below a bedroom window: ``It could have gone off anywhere,'' she said.
Calling on nationalists to be vigilant, Sinn Féin Councillor Mick Conlon warned that ``known loyalists had been seen cruising the area''. Conlon also demanded that the RUC come clean about the presence of the green Mondeo.
Sectarian attacks linked to unionist stalling
By Peadar Whelan
Loyalists who went on the rampage in the Parkside area of North Belfast on Monday, 26 April are involved in a ``serious campaign of intimidation against nationalists'', said Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly.
``In Monday's incursion into the small nationalist enclave off the Limestone Road, up to 30 loyalists armed with sticks verbally and physically attacked residents and threw bricks and petrol bombs at houses,'' said Kelly.
On the previous Friday, loyalists came out of the Tiger's Bay area and in a deliberately provocative manner milled about the enclave before retreating. Residents are now worried that the incursions are a prelude to a summer of sectarian violence against them.
In the last number of years, since Drumcree became a focus of loyalist discontent, Parkside has been particularly hard hit, with gangs of loyalists invading the area and targeting residents. Houses have been petrol-bombed and on a number of occasions, the gangs have tried to force their way into homes to get at the occupants.
``We must work overtime to ensure that vulnerable nationalist communities can live in peace'', urged Kelly.
This is familiar territory for the Sinn Féin man as only last Thursday he fronted a press conference in the Greencastle Community Centre where he detailed the intense campaign of violence being waged against the vulnerable Whitewell and Graymount areas by loyalists.
Between April last year and April this year, there has been in Kelly's words, ``a concerted, planned, sectarian campaign of intimidation by loyalist organisations against Catholics''.
Although the attacks are mostly claimed by the Red Hand Defenders and Orange Volunteers, residents maintain that the mainstream loyalist groups, but mostly the UDA, are operating under a flag of convenience.
Over 100 attacks including gun and bomb attacks have occurred in the areas while Graymount which had almost 90 Catholic families, has now been reduced to an almost Catholic-free zone.
Most families were driven out, some having been faced with a series of attacks on their homes. Another seven are about to move.
Often described as a ``patchwork quilt'', North Belfast's geography has nationalist and loyalist areas built side by side but with loyalists in most cases in the majority, people living in small nationalist enclaves are particularly vulnerable.
``We live with fear all the time'', a resident told An Phoblacht, who said the RUC have turned a blind eye to the situation in Whitewell and Graymount. ``They have watched as loyalists gather at the top of Graymount getting ready to launch attacks, yet when we gathered to hold a peaceful white line picket we were batoned''.
``The reality for nationalist communities on the ground is a concerted campaign of violence by loyalist death squads. This is the impact of current unionist politics on nationalist streets,'' said Gerry Kelly.