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1 February 2001 Edition

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Isolated nationalists have no faith in RUC

As the intensity of the latest loyalist offensive against nationalists increases throughout the North a Coleraine resident told An Phoblacht that Catholics in that area of North County Derry have little faith in RUC promises to clamp down on the bombers.

In the latest attacks in Coleraine a pipe bomb exploded in the living room of their home as they watched television and a second bomb attack was launched against a young mother and her two children.

These latest attacks, which occurred late on Monday night 29 January, are being blamed on the UDA in the area, which is being led by a loyalist thought to have planned the 1993 Greysteel killings of eight people.

Since the start of the year there have been up to 40 loyalist bomb and gun attacks carried out throughout the North, mostly in the Coleraine and Ballymoney areas.

The increase in attacks on nationalists, particularly in North Belfast, where there have been four attacks in a week, come in the wake of the split within the UDA's political wing, the Ulster Democratic Party. Last week, 14 UDP branches withdrew support for the peace process and quit the party.

Shauna Gilmour, who was in her Quickthorn Place home, where she lives with daughter Amanda (13) and Mark (8) when the pipe bomb came through the window at 10.45pm on Monday evening.

An hour later, the home of another Catholic couple was targeted when a pipe bomb exploded in their living room. As the man and woman ran from the room, the device went off showering the room with shrapnel.

The couple's children, aged two and four, were asleep upstairs at the time. In the aftermath of these attacks, the RUC claimed it would step up security in the Coleraine area, but a local man who spoke to An Phoblacht accused the force of turning a blind eye.

``Sometimes you would see RUC patrols and checkpoints but they are never in areas where the trouble is,'', said the man.

For the second time in six months, St Mary's Chapel in Bushmills whas been the target of sectarian arsonists. At 1.30am on Friday morning, 26 January, loyalists pushed a car into the front door of the chapel and set it alight.

Serious smoke and scorch damage was caused to the chapel, also torched six months ago, when a window was broken and a flammable liquid poured in.

Meanwhile, in Derry City the homes of two Catholic sisters, living just yards from each other in Shearwater Way in the Waterside area, were targeted by loyalist bombers. The simultaneous attacks were launched against the families in the early hours of Friday morning, 26 January.

Both bombs exploded but one of the women, Helen Schment, hadn't realised her home was targeted until Sunday morning, 48 hours after the attack. Schment told reporters that she heard an explosion and when her sister, Anne Coyle; phoned to say her house was bombed she assumed that it was just Anne's house that was attacked.

``I walked past the bomb on my way to my sister's,'' she said.

Both families have been living on the Clooney Estate for 22 and 31 years, respectively, and have vowed they won't be driven out.

In 1997, the front room of the Coyle's home was gutted in a petrol bomb attack while just weeks ago loyalists shouting sectarian abuse at the couple throwing bottles attacked the Smet's home.

Just 24 hours later, in Derry City centre, up to 13 people, including a number of women, were attacked by a loyalist mob who had earlier attended a UVF meeting in the Apprentice Boys' Memorial Hall on Magazine Street.

In a number of separate assaults two people, a man and a woman received broken arms a Dutch woman may have suffered a broken nose while others attacked received hospital treatment for facial injuries.

Said Sinn Féin councillor Gerry McLaughlin: ``It appears that a loyalist meeting had taken place in the Apprentice Boys' hall and those coming from it launched a series of ambushes on young nationalists who were in the area. Needless to say, the RUC were nowhere to be seen when these attacks were happening just yards from a British army base brisling with watchtowers.

A Catholic family of six, including a heavily pregnant woman, living in Bawnmore on the outskirts of North Belfast, feel they are lucky that none of the family was injured or killed after they discovered a bomb in their bin in the early hours of Monday morning. Margaret McAdorey and her husband Vincent were packing their bin that they use for recycling paper when they came across the device wrapped in a white sports sock.

The family have no idea when the device was planted and say they were targeted indiscriminantly.

An Phoblacht
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