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5 July 2001 Edition

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Kieran Cummings, the Catholic teenager shot dead in Antrim yesterday morning, was recently threatened by loyalists says Sinn Féin councillor Martin McManus, who blames the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) for the killing.

Cummings was shot dead at about 7.15am on Wednesday morning, 4 July, at the Greystones Roundabout in Antrim as he waited for a lift to work. According to eyewitnesses, two men on a motorbike drove past him, then got off the bike and pretended to fix something on the machine. As Cummings walked past, the pair opened fire, apparently with a shotgun, hitting him several times. He was initially shot in the back then, as he lay on the ground, in the head.

According to reports Cummings died at the scene.

McManus firmly believes the LVF was responsible for the killing, as the loyalist death squad has been ``very active in the Antrim area in recent years'' and in the recent past had threatened Kieran Cummings and other young Catholics in the Antrim area. According to McManus, the LVF unit that came into being in the Antrim area after the split in the UVF has been involved in at least seven killings, the most recent of which were the killings of Sean Browne and Ciaran Heffron.

Bellaghy GAA stalwart Sean Browne was found dead in his burned out car on the Randalstown Road on 12 May 1997 and Ciaran Heffron and 22-year-old Heffron was found dead in Crumlin village on 22 April 1998, in a killing claimed by the LVF.

In the recent past LVF elements have been raising tension in the Antrim area. The loyalists, concerned to protect their drugs market, have been embroiled in attacks on PUP representatives who have opposed drug dealing. However, the main targets of these attacks have been Catholics living in isolated areas of Antrim town.

As An Phoblacht goes to press, the Red Hand Defenders, in a statement released through a Belfast newsroom, claimed responsibility for the killing saying the killing was in response to the election of two Sinn Féin councillors to Antrim Borough Council in June's elections. The Red Hand Defenders (RHD) tag has been used as a flag of convenience for both the LVF and UDA in claiming responsibility for their actions over the past week.

Indeed, as recently as last week, a warning about a bomb planted in the Holy Cross Girls school was phoned in in the name of the RHD before leading UDA man and associate of Johnny Adair, Gary Smith, had his license revoked and was questioned about the bomb alert.


Loyalist killings raised in Dáil

There is ``deep anger'' that at a time of loyalist killings, church burnings and intimidation of schoolchildren, almost all the political and media focus is on the silent weapons of the IRA. So said Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin in the Dáil on Wednesday as he urged the Taoiseach to press the British government to fulfill its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement.

During Questions to the Taoiseach, the Sinn Féin TD said: ``This morning, loyalist paramilitaries carried out the sectarian killing of yet another 19-year-old Catholic man, Ciaran Cummings, in Antrim. This follows the shooting dead of another man, John McCormick, in Coleraine, on 23 June, and the serious wounding of another man in Belfast on 27 June. This is against the backdrop of the ongoing efforts to prevent Catholic schoolchildren from attending school in North Belfast, and the burning of several Catholic churches. Does the Taoiseach realise that there is deep anger, not only among republicans, but among a growing number of Nationalists not only in the Six Counties but throughout the whole island, that at a time when peace is being violated daily by armed loyalism, almost the entire party political and media focus is on the silent and inspected weapons of the IRA?''

Referring to the Taoiseach's meeting with the British Prime Minister on Wednesday evening, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

``As a representative of Sinn Féin, a party that has fulfilled its obligations under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, including the decommissioning section, I urge the Taoiseach to ask the British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, to fulfill his obligations including demilitarisation and the introduction of the new, acceptable police service.''


Loyalist develop more lethal bomb

Loyalists have developed a newer and more lethal pipe bomb. The device is designed to be inserted into the keyhole of a door and explode at head height.

The wired pipe bomb measures one foot long and although the mechanism of the device is still being examined, it is believed detonation occurs when the householder targeted opens his or her front door.

Two of these devices were discovered by a man walking his dog in the Harryville area of Ballymena last Wednesday, 27 June, shortly after 7pm.

The man carried the bombs to Ballymena RUC station, where technical experts from the British Army examined them.

The pipe bomb find comes amid rising tensions in Ballymena. Loyalists are threatening a blockade of the nationalist Fisherwick Estate because nationalists are flying Tricolours.

In incidents over the past two weeks, up to two dozen loyalists, armed with cudgels and iron bars, invaded the estate and tore down some of the flags. A week later, leading loyalist and former RUC men Billy McCaughey led up to 50 loyalists in a blockade of the estate. Fears are growing that loyalists will stage weekly protests if the flags are not removed.

Nationalists and republicans in the area have hit out at the hypocrisy of the protesters, given that Ballymena is covered in loyalist graffiti, flags and emblems.

Indeed, the loyalists have painted graffiti around the Catholic church in Harryville, the scene of a previous 18-month loyalist picket of Massgoers.


North Belfast attacks

A pipe bomb found in the back garden of a Catholic home on Alliance Avenue in North Belfast on Wednesday, 27 June, was the third thrown in the area in a week.

It is believed the device was thrown at the house on Tuesday evening from the loyalist Glenbryn area, which is adjacent to Alliance Avenue.

Sinn Féin's Margaret McClenaghan said the UDA were orchestrating nightly attacks and ``people here are terrified''. The unexploded bomb was found just hours after a Catholic man escaped serious injury in a loyalist gun attack.

A house in Sunnydale Park, Dunmurry, was also attacked by pipe bombers, the latest in a series of attacks on nationalists in the area. The attack took place in the early hours of Friday morning, 29 June, where a 30-year-old woman lives on her own. The bomb went off in the front room, starting a small fire and causing blast damage to the room. A silver Peugeot taxi, which had previously been hijacked, is believed to have been involved in the incident. The car was later found burnt out.

The pipe bomb attack happened hours before a bomb alert at the Holy Cross primary school.

Rogue taxi

Ardoyne Sinn Féin councillor Margaret McClenaghan has accused the driver of a Call a Cab taxi of deliberately trying to kill children in the area last Wednesday, 27 June.

A vehicle from the Crumlin-Road based depot was driven into the Cranbrook Court cul de sac, where the driver drove his vehicle at a group of young children playing on the street, only narrowly missing them. He then hurled sectarian abuse at people as he maneouvered to escape the area, but he crashed his car and local people dragged him out. Some locals attacked the driver, who according to witnesses was drunk and wearing a Rangers shirt, but local republicans quickly intervened to rescue him.

Sinn Féin Councillor Margaret McClenaghan commended the calming influence of republican activists but said: ``The circumstances give rise to many questions. Local people believe that this was merely the latest in a coordinated string of events geared toward heightening tension in this area.''


Derry bomb bid

A Catholic man whose Derry home was targeted in a loyalist pipe bomb attack has vowed he will not leave the area in which he has lived for 25 years.

Kevin Kent's home in Curlew Way in the Clooney estate in Derry's Waterside was bombed in the early hours of Friday morning, 29 June. Slight damage was caused to the front of the house. Just three nights earlier, on Tuesday, a pipe bomb-shaped object was thrown into the backyard of the Kent home, an incident Kevin Kent now believes was ``a warning of sorts''.

Kent, who lives in the house with his teenage son and daughter, Mark and Claire, says the only reason he can think of for the attack is because the family are Catholics. Added Kent, who is originally from South Shiels in England: ``I worked with the local tenants' association for years as well as the local community association and now suddenly I am a target. After all the time and effort I have put into this community I cannot understand why I should now be a target.''

Kent also pointed that in the past a number of armed men threatened him with a gun and told him to get out of the area but nothing ever came of the threat. In recent months, though, his teenage son has been attacked by loyalists on a number of occasions.

In a statement, Sinn Féin councillor Lynn Fleming warned Catholics and nationalists to be be vigilant and pointed out that this attack is just the latest in a series in the area over the past couple of years.


``My mummy put the fire out with a bucket of water''


Twenty minutes earlier, Roisin had lifted her sleeping daughter from the living room sofa and carried her upstairs to bed. A split second beforehand, Roisin had been seated on the sofa with the back of her head resting close to the window as she chatted to her cousin. Then there was a thud outside. ``I heard a fizzing sound like a firework before it ignites and I realised it was a bomb,'' says Roisin.

Four-year-old Joe has already committed his greatest `crime'. He was born a Catholic in a sectarian state
Two days later and outside Roisin's front door the acrid aroma of burnt chemicals and melted plastic still hangs in the air. Roisin's four-year-old son, astride a small bicycle, is standing on the step. ``My mummy put the fire out,'' Joe confides without any prompting, ``with a bucket of water.''

Standing in front of the charred remains of the family's television and telephone cable connection box and the temporary board covering a smashed front window, the child is matter of fact. ``My mummy had a bucket of water,'' he repeats. ``A bomb blew up.'' He looks up waiting for a response. ``You've a very smart mummy,'' I reply and Joe smiles.

And just what do you say to a four-year-old whose home and family have been targeted just because they are Catholics living close to a loyalist estate? How do you explain away an attack in which his mother's escape was nothing short of miraculous and his sister might have been killed?

In the split second of warning before the explosion, Roisin and her cousin ran to the far side of the room but there was nowhere to go. The bomb exploded, shattering the front window and starting a fire outside. If the force of the blast had blown into, instead of away from the window, the outcome facing the two occupants would have been possible death and certain injury. They were very lucky.

``The noise of the explosion was dreadful and the whole room lit up in an orange glare,'' says Roisin. She grabbed a bucket, already filled with water, ran outside and quashed the flames. ``We thought there might be trouble,'' says Roisin. ``After the blockade of Holy Cross school last week, we thought it might filter down into this street.''

The device thrown at the house was constructed out of a welded pipe and was described to the family as a blast and incendiary bomb. Outside, molten inflammable material has fused with the concrete pathway. Shards of broken glass are embedded in wooden fencing and the trunk of a tree.

At the time of the attack, shortly after midnight in the early hours of Sunday morning, the family's two young children were sleeping in a back bedroom. ``My son's room is at the front of the house but to be on the safe side I'd put him in a back room with his sister,'' says Roisin.

This is the first time Roisin's North Belfast home has been directly attacked by loyalists from the nearby Glenbryn estate but some of her neighbours have been attacked before. ``We always expect trouble at this time of year,'' says Roisin. ``Residents often take it in turn to watch each other's houses at night.''

In recent weeks, Catholic families living in the street have been subjected to petty sectarian vandalism, bricks have been hurled through their front windows and cars parked outside have been damaged.

Immediately after the blast bomb attack, a neighbour of Roisin's telephoned the RUC. ``They were here within five minutes,'' says Roisin, ``but they left within minutes as well. I was told to telephone again if anything happened.''

Roisin pointed out that her telephone connection had been incinerated in the blast. ``They left anyway,'' says Roisin, ``and only returned at daybreak five hours later.'' Neighbours boarded the window and stayed with the family. ``A neighbour gave us a mobile phone and sat with me,'' says Roisin.

And it would be a comfort to think that Joe's matter of fact way of dealing with the trauma visited on his family this week is all down to the innocence of his extreme youth. We all hope a four-year old is just `too young to understand' and that in time Joe will simply forget. But it's an expectation based on faith rather than experience.

This was the first time Joe and his immediate family have been attacked in their home. It is unlikely to be the last. Catholic families living in vulnerable areas like North Belfast are repeatedly subjected to sectarian abuse and attack. Joe's extended family, who live just a short distance away, have already been persistently targeted.

Last April, the home of Joe's grandparents was attacked by loyalists who fired shots into an upstairs bedroom of the house from a passing vehicle. Living in the house at the time was Joe's aunt and her family, who had been forced to flee from their own North Belfast home six months earlier when they were targeted by loyalists. Joe's father and his uncles have been recently informed that their names are on a loyalist death list.

Last week, a short distance from Joe's Deerpark home, Catholic schoolchildren were prevented from going to Holy Cross Primary School by a loyalist blockade and RUC cordon. The girls of Holy Cross weren't simply caught up in a sectarian confrontation, a kind of educational collateral damage, distressing but unfortunate. It was far more sinister than that.

The five- to eleven-year olds were specifically targeted by loyalists who claimed they could no longer tolerate Catholic children walking to school with their parents past their front doors. And the justification? Reference to sectarian stereotypes. ``We're sick of them wearing Celtic shirts and blasting republican music out of their cars,'' a loyalist resident told the media. It was tantamount to saying Asian children couldn't walk past because they all smell of curry.

The only difference in this remark and the racist remarks of white supremacists in England is that here, in the North of Ireland, the remark was repeated in the media without qualification. Unchallenged, the remark thus was afforded a legitimacy that can only be described as shameful.

This is the reality in which four-year-old Joe will be growing up - society in which he has already committed his greatest `crime'. He was born a Catholic in a sectarian state.


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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