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22 June 2000 Edition

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Sectarian attacks by loyalists continue

In a week in which the UDA renewed their threat against the northern nationalist community, sectarian attacks against Catholics continued. Within hours of the UDA statement, another Catholic church in County Antrim was targeted in a sectarian arson attack.

The attack on St Colman's Church in Greenisland is the second attack on a Catholic chapel within the last two weeks. In the North Antrim village of Cushendall, St. Mary's Church was severely damaged in a sectarian arson attack on 12 June.

Just before 2am on Tuesday, 20 June, a window was smashed in the sacristy of St Colman's and petrol was poured into the building and set alight. A smoke alarm alerted local parishioners and the damage caused by the fire was limited.

This is the second attack on St. Colman's. In 1996, a fire destroyed most of the building and the church had to be gutted and refurbished.

Last week, two Catholic primary schools in North Antrim were targeted in sectarian arson attacks. St. Joseph's in Ahoghill and St. Mary's in Ballymena sustained damage after late night attacks on Wednesday.

St. Mary's is situated only minutes from Harryville Catholic Church. Harryville was the focus of a ten-month campaign of sectarian intimidation of massgoers by loyalists protesting against the rerouting of an Orange parade away from the nearby nationalist village of Dunloy.

St. Mary's school was also at the centre of an alert last year after a loyalist pipe bomb was discovered in the school grounds. The school music room was damaged in the latest attack but swift action by governors attending a late meeting in the school averted more serious damage.

A classroom at St. Joseph's was damaged after two petrol bombs were thrown setting a number of plastic chairs on fire. The fire was extinguished by a caretaker. The school has been targeted before, in June 1997 and in 1996.

In a sectarian attack on Catholics drinking in a bar in Whiteabbey, a young County Antrim man had the top of his ear sliced off when a loyalist gang from Rathcoole launched an unprovoked attack. In an orchestrated attack, the gang locked customers in the bar before attacking a mixed group of young people celebrating an 18th birthday. Another man required 20 stitches in his face and a woman was hit over the head with a bar stool as up to a dozen people were assaulted.

Meanwhile, an elderly Catholic couple living in Derry's Clooney estate have been left fearing for their lives after a shotgun was fired at their home in the early hours of Saturday morning.

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