AP 4-2023 top

2 August 2001 Edition

Resize: A A A Print

UDA shoot down teenager


Gavin Brett, an 18-year-old Protestant living in the mixed Glengormley estate, was singing and joking with a group of Catholic friends just moments before loyalist gunmen launched their deadly attack last Sunday night.

It was shortly before 11pm and the teenagers had just left St. Enda's Gaelic football club, where they had been celebrating Michael Farrell's 18th birthday. A car approached and stopped before a number of automatic shots were fired, fatally wounding Gavin and seriously injuring Michael.

Michael Brett, a paramedic living locally, rushed to the scene to discover the victims were his son and his son's best friend. All attempts to revive Gavin failed and he died cradled in his father's arms. His teenage companion was rushed to hospital.

Michael Farrell, a promising young footballer, had been shot in the ankle, the bullet shattering the bone. In hospital, Michael wept for the death of his young friend and the trauma visited upon the party of birthday celebrants.

Local priest Fr. Dan White visited Michael in hospital and described the teenager as inconsolable at his best friend's death. He asked his own mother to go and say to Gavin's mother that he was sorry as if he was in some way responsible, said the priest.

In a statement to a Belfast newsroom, a caller claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the Red Hand Defenders. The grouping, a cover name used by both the UDA and LVF, warned that their ``campaign will increase in ferocity in the coming weeks, months and days'' and cited the excuse ``because of the existing denial of civil rights for Protestants.''

Earlier in the month, the RHD admitted killing 19-year-old Catholic Ciaran Cummings in a similar drive-by shooting. Days later, loyalist gunmen opened fire on a Catholic community centre in North Belfast where a summer play scheme for local children was being held.

In a statement claiming responsibility, the RHD threatened more attacks and warned that they considered ``all nationalist people as hostile and legitimate targets.''

The so-called Red Hand Defenders first emerged in 1998 as a loyalist group determined to wreck the peace process but loyalist sources later admitted that the RHD never really existed. It emerged simply as a flag of convenience used by dissent groups like the Orange Volunteer and loyalist groupings officially on ceasefire, the UDA and LVF.

In March 1999, the car bomb attack that killed Lurgan defence lawyer Rosemary Nelson was claimed by the RDH but other loyalist groups have always been suspected of involvement in the attack.

In September 1998, the name was used to claim the death of RUC officer Frankie O'Reilly, who died when a blast bomb was thrown during an Orange Drumcree protest. It was also used in connection with the sectarian killing of Brian Service in North Belfast in October 1998.

More recently, the name has been used by the UDA to claim hundreds of pipe and blast bomb attacks on Catholic families across the North.


Abduction attempts in North Belfast


Hours before the sectarian killing of teenager Gavin Brett, a 14-year-old Catholic living in the same Glengormley estate had been targeted in a loyalist abduction attempt.

Maria Lynch, the schoolboy's distraught mother, described her son as ``lucky to be alive'' after he fled from a carload of loyalists as he left a local fast food restaurant on Sunday night.

At around 7pm, Conor Lynch left the Sportsbowl complex at Glenwell Road in Glengormley and with two friends went for something to eat at MacDonalds. When the three boys left the restaurant, a grey Vauxhall car sped towards them.

``His friends ran towards Colinbridge but Conor ran in the opposite direction into the cinema car park,'' said Maria. ``The car chased him and tried to run him over. He hid in some bushes until it was safe to come out.''

The teenager's mother said her son looked ``more like a nine-year-old'' and the men involved in the attack were clearly prepared to attack children. ``I'm just disgusted,'' said Maria.

In a second abduction attempt by loyalists on the same night, a Catholic grandfather, too afraid to be named, escaped a loyalist murder attempt when a gun, aimed at his head and fired, jammed.

The 56-year-old was driving on the Crumlin Road in North Belfast in the early hours of Monday morning when three masked men stopped him. An armed man approached the driver's window of the car and gestured to the man to get out of the vehicle. Realising his life was in danger, the driver drove off at speed from the junction of Crumlin Road and Ligoniel Road. As he hit the accelerator, the grandfather of five heard the gun click, just feet from his head.

``There is no doubt in my mind that they were trying to kill me,'' said the man. A second member of the masked gang jumped out of the way as the car sped off.

Local Sinn Fein councillor Briege Meehan told An Phoblacht that the previous week two 13-year-old Catholics had been chased by a silver Astra. Describing the nationalist community as ``extremely anxious'', she warned everyone, but particularly young Catholics, to be very vigilant.


Targeted couple were on hit list

A Catholic couple are living in fear after loyalist pipe bombers attacked their home near Whiteabbey on Sunday 29 July. Just months ago, they were told their names were on a loyalist death list.

The couple narrowly escaped death in their Abbeyville Park home after their attackers broke their bedroom window with a brick and then threw in a pipe bomb, which exploded minutes later at 11.20pm. Luckily, the delayed detonation allowed the couple to escape uninjured. The explosion ripped a huge hole in the wall of the bedroom where the couple had been sleeping.

This attack happened at the same time as Protestant teenager Gavin Brett was killed by loyalists in Glengormley.

The couple, who have lived in the house for 22 years, said it was too soon to decide what to do. It was one of three pipe bomb attacks on Sunday night across County Antrim.

And in Larne, a Catholic family escaped injury when a pipe bomb exploded in the rear of their garden in Loram Crescent around 2am on Monday, 30 July.


Double bomb attack on family of four

A family of four escaped injury when two pipe bombs exploded on the windowsill of their house on the Larne Road outside Carrickfergus in County Antrim at around 4am on Sunday 29 July.

A man and woman and their two children, aged 15 and 5, were asleep upstairs when the devices exploded. One neighbour, who heard the blast, said he had no idea why the family should be targeted.

Another neighbour said the town was normally quiet, with the exception of the Twelfth, when ``there's usually trouble''.


Sectarian campaign in Limavady

``This level of intimidation is increasing all the time and bringing fear and terror to ordinary nationalists who just want to live their lives in peace.'' Sinn Féin councillor Francie Brolly was speaking this week about the growing campaign of loyalist intimidation against nationalists in the County Derry town of Limavady, where there have been nightly sectarian attacks recently.

According to Brolly, the attacks have increased since a loyalist Website listing the names and workplaces of several local men came online. The Website actually identified one man one man and said he should be targeted with a pipe bomb.

Other messages from Limavady invite ``loyalist groups'' to ``bring your pipe bombs to Limavady''.

Said Brolly: ``This web site is just the latest example of the intimidation being directed at nationalists in Limavady.'' Bars in the town, as well as private homes, have been attacked by loyalist gangs hurling stones through the windows. Loyalist emblems and flags are being flown throughout the town, while a UFF plaque was erected in Drumachose Park.


UDA trying to provoke IRA - McGuinness

Mid-Ulster MP Martin McGuinness has accused the UDA of attempting to provoke the IRA into retaliation and a return to war. McGuinness was speaking after the latest UDA attack on Magherafelt GAA Club at the weekend.

The device, left outside the O'Donovan Rossa club, was defused by the British Army on Sunday 29 July. The bomb had been spotted before the weekly training session for up to 60 children at the club's pitch on the Castledawson Road.

``I have no doubt that the concerted campaign of attacks that we are witnessing across the North is the work of the UDA,'' he said. ``The device discovered at the Magherafelt GAA Club could easily have resulted in multiple deaths if any of the 60 children expected at the club for training had picked it up.

``Against this background of a murder campaign being waged by the UDA against the republican and nationalist people of the Six-Counties, it is particularly offensive to have Ronnie Flanagan state in a newspaper interview that the greatest threat to the Peace Process comes from the activities of so-called republican dissidents. By his nonsensical and insulting comments Ronnie Flanagan is behaving like a cheerleader and apologist for the UDA, who are clearly attempting to draw the IRA back into a war situation.

``I urge republicans and nationalists to be extra vigilant and not to approach or pick up suspicious objects.''

Two years ago a workman was injured while building on the new club was underway. The man lifted a booby trapped breeze block which exploded, causing him slight injuries to his hand.


Dunmurry woman forced to flee her home

A 60-year-old Catholic woman has been forced to flee her home after a series of sectarian attacks and intimidation. The single woman, Maureen Orderly, from Millfort Avenue in Dunmurry had been renting her home for just three months and now she has been forced to move.

According to Orderly, she first became worried when her grandchildren came to stay for the weekend and were asked about their religion.

Then on 29 June, an Orange parade came along the street and Maureen's car was the only one left on the road. That night, at about 2.30am, she had a brick thrown through her window and believes the motive for the attack was sectarian. Orderly says she thinks the loyalists believed she deliberately left her car on the Road during the parade.

The Catholic woman said the RUC were unsympathetic and completely uninterested.

Sinn Féin councillor Paul Butler said Maureen Orderly's plight had to be seen in the context of a campaign of intimidation against nationalists living in the Dunmurry area. ``There is no doubt that Catholics are being driven out of Dunmurry,'' he said. ``The RUC are aware of this, but unfortunately they seem to be intent on playing down this intimidation.''


UDA campaign must be challenged


``We all know that the UDA ceasefire is over,'' Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams told a Belfast press conference this week. ``And what is causing anger is the refusal by the British government, and particularly the RUC hierarchy, to state that publicly.''

Adams was speaking after the death of Belfast teenager Gavin Brett and serious injury of another 18-year-old Michael Farrell in a UDA gun attack at the weekend. The two friends were standing with other teenagers outside St. Enda's GAA club in Glengormley, County Antrim on Sunday night, 29 July, when loyalist gunmen opened fire from a passing car.

``Clearly, the responsibility for this killing rests with those who commissioned it or those who carried out the act,'' said Adams, ``but this is also a tragic reminder of how precarious peacemaking can be.''

``This was the third person to be killed because they were Catholic or suspected of being Catholic,'' said Adams. Three weeks ago, 19-year-old Ciaran Cummings was shot dead by loyalist gunmen as he waited for a lift to work at the Greystones roundabout in Antrim. The Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by both the UDA and LVF, later claimed the killing.

Earlier this year, a loyalist gang who mistook their victim for a Catholic beat 49-year-old Thomas Lowry to death. The same gang had attempted to abduct a man leaving St. Enda's GAA club earlier that night. Local people who witnessed the abduction attempt identified one of the gang as a member of the UDA.

``This loyalist campaign is being conducted by anti-Agreement loyalists,'' said Adams. ``Their aim is to bring down the Good Friday Agreement, but it goes much further than that. It is also an attempt to destroy the peace process.''

Within the last six months, there have been almost 150 pipe bomb attacks by loyalists on the homes of Catholic families, some of which have only narrowly escaped serious death or injury. In one of the most serious incidents a Catholic family of five escaped within seconds of their home being engulfed by a fireball that completely destroyed their New Lodge home.

Other Catholic families have been subjected to petrol and paint bomb attacks on their homes and property. Three weeks ago when a row of sixteen pensioners bungalows were petrol bombed, only the vigilance of neighbours who spotted the fires and rescued the elderly residents, averted greater tragedy.

A number of Catholics have been seriously injured in attacks by loyalist mobs. Earlier this year, 51-year-old Mary Campbell was beaten unconscious and left for dead by loyalists from Tigers Bay who attacked the Catholic grandmother with pickaxe handles outside her North Belfast home.

Commenting on the UDA's involvement in both ``a protracted campaign of bomb attacks on Catholic homes and property'' as well as recent street disturbances, Adams criticised the British government's lack of response.

``The refusal of the British government to face up to this is totally unacceptable,'' said Adams. ``We have to face up to the reality that within recent weeks all nationalists were declared targets.'' Adams called on all civic society to make it clear that they are against this sectarian activity.

``I am also calling on the leaders of unionism not only to declare their opposition to these sectarian attacks but also to meet the loyalist organisations involved,'' said Adams. ``For my part I am prepared to meet the UDA to make my position clear.''

Adams said he was prepared to meet anyone and to work on any initiative that could be put in place to stabilise the situation, ``and I call upon others to do likewise''.

Commenting on the recent upsurge in street disturbances, particularly in North Belfast, Adams said there was a ``very deep anger within nationalism that these disturbances have been reported as tit-for-tat''. The Sinn Féin President rejected the portrayal of republicans and nationalists as ``a mirror reflection of rejectionist loyalism''.

Repeating Sinn Féin's ``firm and total opposition to sectarianism'' and reiterating republican opposition to attacks on Protestant homes, Adams warned against young nationalists being sucked into a sectarian response to loyalist violence.

``I want to commend many people in North Belfast, community workers and people involved in civic society, republicans and former prisoners, all who have played a very positive role,'' said Adams. ``I am also aware that decent elements within loyalism are also trying to calm this situation and that each section of our people in these interface areas feels under threat.''

``The difficulties in nationalist areas have been exacerbated by the partisan behaviour of the RUC,'' Adams added, pointing out that community leaders attempting to calm situations ``appear to have been deliberately targeted by the RUC. There are a number of people injured or still in hospital as a result of being batoned or hit by plastic bullets by the RUC.''


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1