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11 January 2001 Edition

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Loyalist violence 2000

An Phoblacht's LAURA FRIEL details another year of loyalist attacks against vulnerable nationalists across the Six Counties

The year ended as it began with the Ulster Unionist Council precipitating further crisis within the peace process. In February, a suspension of the institutions at the behest of unionists dealt a near fatal blow to the peace process. As Christmas approached David Trimble plunged the process once again into deepening crisis by blocking Sinn Fein representation on cross-border ministerial councils.

In the intervening months the failure of political unionism to grasp the opportunity for change, the strategy of opposition to change pursued by unionist politicans, even those who signed up to the Good Friday Agreement, created the kind of political vacuum in which loyalist violence thrived.

And as the year 2000 drew to a close, it was clear that loyalist violence had significantly intensified. In Belfast, vulnerable areas in the north of the city and on the outskirts of the west came under repeated sectarian attack. Outside of Belfast, Catholics living in predominantly loyalist towns in County Antrim, most notably Larne, Ballymena, Ballymoney also endured increasing levels of loyalist violence.

Catholics living in Coleraine bore the brunt of the upsurge in loyalist violence in County Derry, while the village of Ballynahinch was the focus of sectarian violence in County Down.

Intermittent attacks on Catholic-owned businesses, churches and schools, ongoing throughout the year, were accompanied by more systematic mob attacks on Catholic homes and families during the summer. Paint-bomb, petrol-bomb and pipe-bomb attacks kept Catholic families in vulnerable areas living in a constant state of fear. By December, loyalist violence had returned to its traditional sectarian killing.

On 6 December, Gary Moore, a 30-year-old father of two from Dungiven, was singled out because he was a Catholic and shot dead as he worked on a building site in the loyalist Monkstown estate near Newtownabbey. In Belfast, just minutes after the Dungiven killing, a 22-year-old Catholic taxi driver was seriously wounded but survived another loyalist gun attack.

A few days later and loyalist gunmen struck again, this time in Derry. Their victim, shot in the chest as he attempted to flee, was targeted in the mistaken belief he was a Catholic. The killers had attempted to lure a taxi driver from a firm located in the Catholic Top of the Hill area of the Waterside. The company had passed the request onto another firm that employs mostly Protestants.

Northern nationalists often paid the price, but at the core of loyalist violence throughout the year 2000 lay rivalry between the different loyalist paramilitary groupings. Internecine feuding at the beginning of the year briefly gave away to shows of strength only to plunge back into a bitter and bloody feud on the Shankill.

While open feuding laid bare the tensions within loyalism, the pecking order was also being played out by being seen to be `tough on taigs.' In early summer, Johnny Adair's bid to be `top' rather than `Mad Dog' suffered a major blow with the screening of a documentary exposing drug dealing within the Shankill heartland of the UDA.

Within days, masked and armed members of the UDA renewed their threat against northern nationalists. Accusing nationalists of ``ethnic cleansing'', the UDA declared ``the right to shoot any person seen to be attacking Protestants in North and West Belfast''.

It was a spurious claim and it was exposed as such almost immediately. Disputing the claim that Protestant families had been intimidated out of their homes, the Housing Executive published its records. There was no record of any Protestant family being intimidated out of their home. All the families forced to flee had been Catholic.

Film footage of UDA leader Johnny Adair and his ontourage of t-shirted men and dog marching in the grounds of Drumcree church or cheering as masked LVF gunmen fired a volley of shots during a rally in Portadown were repeatedly shown on television and became the dominant image of loyalism this year.

In July, tensions between the UDA and UVF were being played out symbolically with flags and murals marking out each groups territorial claim. In Portadown, sceens of Johnny Adair covorting with the UVF's bitter rival the LVF fanned the flames of tension between the UDA and UVF in Belfast.

Less frequently shown was the sectarian violence visited upon Catholic communities by loyalist groupings vying for supremacy within their own estates. In August, the UDA in Belfast launched a series of orchestrated attack on nationalist families living in the north of the city.

It was 7.30am on a Sunday morning when a minibus, carrying an armed and masked loyalist gang, drove into a nationalist enclave off the Limestone Road. In a frenzy of sectarian violence, the mob sledgehammered their way into a number of homes, lobbed bricks and paint bombs through front windows and smashed residents' cars.

For nationalists, the attack was not about broken glass and damaged property but of shattered nerves and damaged lives. Panic striken families barricaded their doors and fled upstairs. One mother frantically hid her children in an upstairs cupboard, fearing for their lives if the mob broke through the table she'd thrown across the front doorway.

Speaking of her ordeal, another resident spoke of sleepless nights and endless worry. ``When day breaks,'' she had said, ``you think you're safe.'' For nationalists living in vulnerable areas, systematic persecution was still a way of life in the first year of the New Millennium.

On Saturday, 19 August, in a carefully orchestrated UDA paramilitary show of strength, Johnny Adair marched behind UDA and UFF banners within the ranks of several hundred masked and uniformed loyalists.

The event had euphamistically been billed as a celebration of loyalist culture but violence and the threat of violence were never far from the surface. As part of the ``celebration'', several murals glorifying the sectarian murder of Catholics were unveiled.

Trouble flared shortly after 3pm when loyalist bandsmen carrying a LVF flag paraded past a pub frequented by the UVF. It began as a brawl outside a bar but quickly escalated into a bloody feud. In a three month period seven loyalists were shot dead, mostly in North Belfast, and several hundred families with loyalist connections fled from their Shankill homes.

But while loyalist rivalry erupted on the Shankill, sectarian attacks on Catholics continued. In December the spotlight was on Larne. A dossier detailing over 160 sectarian attacks on Catholic families living in the predominantly loyalist seaside town was given to the British and Dublin governments.

Many of the families whose plight was highlighted in the dossier had been the target for repeated sectarian attacks. The Shaw family have lived in Larne for three generations. Just before Christmas they were informed that their names, together with other Catholic families living on the Seacourt estate, were on a loyalist death list.

Two months earlier John Shaw had been targeted in a loyalist booby trap bomb attack. John escaped with minor injuries but his companion was seriously injured. In an earlier attack John escaped serious injury when a grenade exploded under his van. John's home has been petrol bombed and his car set alight.

Other members of the Shaws' extended family have also been the target for repeated sectarian attack. An aunt's house has been petrol bombed twice and a cousin has been shot at and stabbed by loyalists. A blast bomb was also thrown at his home. An uncle, Bertie Shaw was shot dead by the UDA in 1993.

During thecivil rights campaign of thirty years ago, Bernadette Devlin had famously said it was time for nationalists in the north to stop ``keeping your head down like a Larne Catholic.'' The Good Friday Agreement enshrined the right to live free from sectarian harassment. In the year 2000 that right remained aspirational rather than realised for nationalist living in the north.

Loyalist killings 2000

Jan.1, Denver Smith (33), a member of PUP, was clubbed to death in Stiles estate in Antrim by a loyalist gang involved in drug dealing.

Jan. 10, Richard Jameson (46), a UVF leader in mid Ulster murdered by rival loyalists in the LVF.

Feb.19, David McIIwaine (19) and Andrew Robb (18) stabbed to death outside Tandragee, Co. Armagh as part of a loyalist feud.

May 25, Martin Taylor, a friend of PUP assembly member Billy Hutchinson, shot dead in North Belfast by UDA.

July 11, Andrew Cairns (22) killed at an eleventh night bonfire in Larne after a row between UVF and UDA members.

Aug.21, Bobby Mahood (48) and Jackie Coulter (48) gunned down in a jeep on the Crumlin Road, North Belfast by the UVF.

Aug.23, Sam Rocket (22) linked to the UVF, was shot dead at his girlfriend's home in Summer Street, North Belfast by the UDA.

Oct.28, David Greer (21) linked to the UDA was shot dead in Mountcollyer Street, North Belfast by the UVF.

Oct.30, Bertie Rice (63) a PUP worker gunned down in Tiger's Bay, North Belfast by UDA.

Oct.30, Tommy English (40) a former member UDA shot dead at his home in Newtownabbey by the UVF.

Nov.2, Mark Quail (26), a member of the UVF, was shot dead at his Rathcoole flat by the UDA.

Dec.5, Trevor Kell (35)Protestant taxi driver shot dead answering a bogus call for a taxi in North Belfast.

Dec. 6, Gary Moore (30) a Catholic building worker from Dungiven, shot dead by loyalists in Monkstown, Newtownabbey.

Dec. 18, James Rockett (29). Had UDA connections and was killed in dispute over drugs. UDA are thought to have been behind the killing.

Jan 7, 2001. Geordie Legge (38) former top UDA member tortured and beaten to death by the UDA in a dispute over drug dealing debt.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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