27 May 1999 Edition
Attempted massacre in West Belfast
A mass murder bid in West Belfast last week has sent shockwaves across the nationalist community of the North and has fostered already heightened fears of further massacre attempts by loyalist death squads.
Security was tightened on Saturday night last in public areas across Belfast for the FA Cup final and will be doubled for the Scottish Cup final between Celtic and Rangers this weekend.
More importantly, the latest mass murder attempt is a prelude to more attacks by dissident loyalist death squads with the active participation of loyalist groups allegedly on ceasefire.
Last Thursday night, 300 people were enjoying a night of craic at Caffery's on the Falls Road, facing the Red Devils Bar. It was shortly after midnight when a white car, believed to be a Nissan Primera, pulled up beside the bar. It had been spotted by the Community Watch in the area previously.
A young man tried to enter the pub. ``He tried to get in the fire doors before he was confronted by one of the door staff,'' said Arthur Rooney, owner of both bars. ``Had it not been for the plated glass, it would have been a massacre''.
The owner of both bars also highlighted the fact that the spy cameras located on the Broadway flats would no doubt have filmed the sequence of events.
Shortly after, a grenade was thrown against the bar and exploded in the middle of the road. The impact of the blast shattered the windows of both bars.
According to a West Belfast woman who was drinking in the bar at the time, customers then jumped to the floor as others ran to the far end of the bar, fearing another blast.
``People were totally panicked and were shouting to keep our heads down because they thought a gunman would enter,'' she said. Four people had to be hospitalised, three of them suffering from shrapnel injuries. According to various sources, it took the RUC 45 minutes to get to the scene.
The ambulances transporting the injured were not allowed to leave the bar before the RUC's arrival. Upon arrival, an RUC member jumped out of the jeep with a plastic bullet gun and pointed it at the crowd.
Speaking at the scene the next morning, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said: ``I would appeal to everyone, particularly the Ulster Unionists, to implement the agreement reached, otherwise the continuing vacuum will be filled by the type of people who were active last night on the Falls Road''.
He added: ``The British government needs to understand that if this was Brick Lane in London, this would not be tolerated. It is only a matter of time before someone is killed.''
As the bar staff cleaned the shattered glass and attempted to resume business as normal, a Progressive Unionist Party statement rang further alarm bells. David Ervine warned that this attack was only the ``tip of the iceberg'' of what dissident loyalists would do if political progress wasn't made. He added that similar attacks had to be expected.
Loyalist murder target was threatened by RUC
By Ned Kelly
Two loyalist gunmen attempted to murder a Catholic community worker moments after he left a young girl home in the loyalist Shankill area of Belfast at around 11pm on Friday night.
The man, father of six 49-year-old Frank Petticrew, had just left the 14-year-old girl off to her home in Snugville Street after they attended a cross-community horse riding event when the two loyalists opened fire. One bullet hit the car door and others shattered the windows of a pub across the road.
Last November, An Phoblacht reported that the RUC had attempted to recruit Petticrew to act as informer and then threatened to have him killed by the Red Hand Defenders when he refused. Of the RUC death threat, Petticrew said: ``It seems their words have come true''.
Despite the RUC death threat, it is believed that Petticrew had been dropping the young girl home for some time. Petticrew added: ``They were obviously watching me for a while. Even though I had recently changed my car they still knew it was me.''
Sinn Féin North Belfast Assembly member Gerry Kelly, who exposed the original RUC death threat last year, dismissed claims that the attack was the work of `fringe' loyalists. He said: ``All the signs point to one of the mainstream loyalist organisations.''
Adams praises community watch group
BY NED KELLY
West Belfast Sinn Féin MP Gerry Adams has praised the, ``selflessness and dedication'', of a West Belfast community neighbourhood watch group, ``whose presence, and quick thinking, almost certainly saved lives'' in the loyalist attack on two Falls Road bars last weekend.
But the Sinn Féin President also accused the RUC of ``indulging in a systematic campaign against local citizens from the recently established neighbourhood watch scheme in the greater St. James's area''.
Residents from the St. James's, Rock Street, La Salle and Clondara Street areas in West Belfast are demanding to know why the RUC are subjecting them to a campaign of harassment and intimidation when their work is aimed at trying to put an end to the anti-social behaviour in the area. Adams, commending the work of the community initiatives, said: ``While the schemes do not pretend to be a policing service, they are admirable efforts in trying to make their communities safer places, they are holding out the hand of friendship and help to those who wish to turn away from anti-social behaviour.''
In recent weeks members of the St. James's community initiative have been stopped, questioned and photographed by the RUC. It has emerged that at least three young people have been approached by the RUC and are being pressurised to act as informers.
Calling on more people to come out and support the new group, Pat O'Rawe, whose shop was recently broken into with £600-worth of goods damaged but nothing stolen, emphasised that their aim was to provide a presence on the streets and discourage anti-social behaviour.
One group member told An Phoblacht that their presence on the streets was already having a significant impact on the problems of car theft, house burglaries, shop break-ins and drug dealing and use in the area.
End loyalist siege of nationalists areas
With loyalist violence spreading throughout the North and attacks on small, isolated nationalist areas occurring almost nightly, it looks likely that with the looming Drumcree crisis the intensity and seriousness of these attacks will grow.
Nowhere will the effects of this increased loyalist violence be felt more keenly than in the small, isolated and vulnerable enclaves of North Belfast. In the past four years of Drumcree, the Whitewell, Graymount and Ligoniel areas on the outskirts of North Belfast have been targeted as loyalist mobs, backed by loyalist death squads, laid siege to the areas.
Already, nationalists in Ligoniel have come under nightly attack and when An Phoblacht visited the area this week locals expressed their fear that once again they will be cut off as they were last year when loyalists ripped out phone lines and tried to cut off electricity supplies. Since last Monday, 17 May, the only road from Belfast into Ligoniel has been blocked every night by loyalist gangs hiding in the Glenbank Park who stoned buses and cars going into or leaving the estate.
The RUC have been criticised for doing nothing except to weld the gates of the park shut.
Said Jack McGarry of Sinn Féin: ``All this does is ensure that any nationalists who would like to use the park now can't. The RUC are doing nothing to prevent these mobs gathering and coming into the park. Sometimes they are coming up the road and gathering; it's intimidation''.
Colette expressed her fear that the gangs will next target the homes beside the doctor's surgery, which house old age pensioners and some lone parents ``Those people were terrified last year'', she said.
An Phoblacht has also learnt that a car blown up by the British army in Ligoniel in the early hours of Wednesday morning had been hijacked by loyalists and was to be used in a gun attack on a nationalist in the area.
According to local sources a car, which had been hijacked by armed men on the Upper Crumlin Road earlier, was found abandoned in Ligoniel at about 1.30am and the RUC came on the scene at about 2pm when a senior RUC man told people that three gunmen had been in the car.
Local people believe that the loyalists were planning to attack someone who lived locally and suspect that something happened that forced them to abandon the car and flee. British army bomb disposal units arrived and the area was evacuated between 4am and 7 am, when they blew up the vehicle in a `controlled explosion'.
Meanwhile, the RUC visited a local man on the estate on Tuesday evening, hours before the incident with the car, and told him that his details were in the hands of loyalists, warning him he ``is on a UFF death list''. The man's house is across from where the hijacked car was found.
This is the fourth time in the past two years that the RUC have visited the man.
The man said he was told by the RUC that, ``the UFF are doing sweeps in nationalist areas''.
Sinn Fein Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly has warned nationalists to be vigilant but has called on unionists to, ``work within their communities to ensure that the systematic violence aimed at small, vulnerable nationalists communities is stopped.
``With the build up to the Twelfth and particularly with the tension surrounding Drumcree Ligoniel, Whitewell and Graymount as well as the area bordering Tiger's Bay are targeted by loyalists. It is a `tradition' we can do without and I hope that communities and political leaders in unionists areas will do their utmost to prevent anti-Catholic violence before lives are lost''.