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22 March 2001 Edition

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Loyalists attack Catholic homes in Portadown


A loyalist mob attacked Catholic homes on the edge of the Garvaghy Road estate in Portadown last Sunday night, smashing windows and terrifying residents. The attack happened just hours after news broke that restrictions banning the Orange Order from marching through the nationalist Garvaghy Road area are not in breach of human rights legislation.

Catholic homes in Craigwell Avenue were attacked by a stone-throwing gang of around 30 loyalists shortly after 8.30pm. Vulnerable and on the edge of the nationalist Garvaghy estate, Craigwell residents have endured a concerted campaign of sectarian violence, which has included gun, petrol and pipe bomb attacks.

Upper Bann Assembly member Dara O'Hagan described the attack as ``deliberate sectarianism'' and ``another example of the anti-Catholic campaign which is being waged in this area''. The attacks were directly linked to the ongoing Orange Order siege of Garvaghy Road, said O'Hagan.

Hours earlier, the findings of the Six County-based Human Rights Commission, which is due to deliver a report to the Orange Order this week, were leaked by the media. The Order had claimed that rerouting the Drumcree parade away from the Garvaghy Road breached European human rights legislation.

Orangemen had hoped that European legislation, which was incorporated into the north of Ireland last October, would provide a legal basis to challenge restrictions placed on the Drumcree march.

However, the Commission is to tell the Order that a challenge to the ban is likely to fail. The decision was reached after scrutiny of over 30 cases in which government bans on peaceful marches had been upheld by European courts.

Brice Dickson, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission, said that one of the reasons behind the ruling was that the parade organisers had refused to speak to local residents objecting to the march and to the Parades Commission. ``The non willingness to engage is a factor that counts against organisers of marches,'' said Dickson.

Earlier this year, Brian Currin, the South African mediator tasked with resolution of Drumcree warned the Orange Order that all contentious parades would be rerouted unless the Order changed its policy and started to engage in dialogue.

170 copies of a discussion document drawn up by Currin to be presented to a 120-strong delegate conference of the Orange Order last month were unceremoniously binned by the head of the Order, Robert Saulters. Despite all entreaties, the Order was set on a collision course. The Grand Master refused to hand out the document because Currin suggested that the Order should reconsider its current refusal to talk to Catholic residents. Saulters described the document as ``irrelevant'' because ``the Grand Lodge had set its face against talking to the Garvaghy Road residents''.

Following his intervention, the Orange Order set its face against talking to the international mediator too. ``Mr Currin may talk to them (nationalist residents),'' said Saulters, but ``we won't be talking to him or them.''

Adrift in the post-Agreement North, the Orange Order is increasingly reliant upon loyalist violence to provide sufficient wind for its sails. But it's a risk-all strategy.

That is no comfort at all to the residents of Craigwell Avenue and the many other Catholic families who, no doubt, will be forced to endure months of sectarian intimidation before, during and after Drumcree 2001.


Antrim nationalists attacked


``We have no doubt they did this because we are Catholics,'' said Paula Reid after a loyalist gun attack on her Cloughmills home. The attack took place in the County Antrim village shortly before midnight last Sunday.

The family's two youngest children, a girl aged 14 and an 11-year-old boy, were being looked after by their eldest son (18) when loyalist gunmen fired a number of shots through the front door.

All three children were asleep upstairs at the time. Una Reid said she was wakened by a loud noise downstairs. ``There was a bang and my brother shouted that there was a hole in the door and to phone daddy,'' said Una. ``You hear about Catholic homes being attacked all the time but you never think it would happen to your own.''

The children's distressed parents, Paula and Gerard, were only a short distance away and arrived back within minutes of the attack. ``It was pure luck that none of our children were hurt,'' said Gerard. His eldest son had gone upstairs to bed only moments before the shooting started.

Paula said her family has lived in Cloughmills for 18 years and they wouldn't be intimidated out of the home they loved. Graffiti scrawled on the front door step saying ``easy'' is believed to be the work of the attackers. ``My children were an easy target,'' said Paula.

Sinn Féin representative for the area, Philip McGuigan, blamed the UVF for the recent attacks on Catholics in the village. ``A UVF man has recently moved into the area and he seems to be orchestrating the attacks,'' he said.

This was the latest in a series of attacks on Catholic-owned premises and homes in Cloughmills in recent weeks. A local pub was attacked with a pipe bomb and shots have been fired in the village. The attack occurred within 36 hours of petrol bomb attacks on two Catholic-owned businesses in the village's main street.

Meanwhile, a loyalist gang attacked two Catholic schoolboys in Antrim town. A bottle was smashed over one child and the second had two fingers broken during the attack. The gang, all in their late teens, targeted the two much younger children when trouble flared outside St. Malachy's High School.

The gang, all over school age, claimed they had carried out the attack on behalf of the UDA. Fear of further attacks has meant that pupils have had to be escorted to buses home by teachers.


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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