AP front 1 - 2022

23 August 2001 Edition

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Loyalists target Catholic teenagers


A loyalist gang savagely beat a 16-year-old Catholic girl as she walked along Clifton Street, North Belfast. Coleen Burns was punched and repeatedly kicked by the five man strong gang. The assailants, who threatened to abduct her and take her into the loyalist Shankill, subjected the terrified teenager to sectarian abuse. ``I thought I was going to be killed,'' said Coleen.

The Wednesday night attack took place just yards from the teenager's Carrickhill home. Coleen and two friends had been walking home when the gang confronted them. Two friends escaped but Coleen was caught and subjected to a brutal attack. ``I tried to protect my face and head,'' said Coleen, ``but they kicked by hands away.''

The gang ran away when they were disturbed by a passing RUC patrol but not before stealing rings and jewellery from their victim. The men ran towards Denmark Street in the Lower Shankill. Coleen was taken to hospital where she was treated for fractures to her face and ribs. ``They knew I was a Catholic and tried to kill me,'' said Coleen, ``mugging me was just a bonus.''

Earlier that day two other Catholic schoolgirls had been the focus of another sectarian attack by a loyalist mob from the Tigers Bay area of North Belfast. Mary Jo Harvey (16) and her 13-year-old friend Ursula Lawlor had been collected a prescription from a local chemist around 5pm, when loyalists surrounded the shop.

The 40-strong mob, armed with iron bars and cudgels, surrounded the shop moments after a confrontation with loyalist youths during which the two girls had been punched and kicked. The girls sought refuge in the chemist but a hostile crowd quickly surrounded the premises. ``I thought I was going to be beaten to death,'' said Mary Jo.

Fearing for his daughter's safety, James Harvey attempted to rescue the trapped girls and was badly beaten by the mob, sustaining a serious head injury. ``All I was trying to do was to get to my daughter,'' said James. Another Catholic man had to be rescued from the nearby health centre during the incident.

Sinn Féin representative Kathy Stanton accused loyalists of trying to stop Catholics from using the local health centre and chemist that services both communities. ``This is not tit for tat,'' said Kathy, ``this is a clearly orchestrated campaign of sectarian intimidation by loyalists.''

Later that night nationalists living in the nearby Duncairn Gardens reported gunfire coming from the loyalist Tigers Bay area at 11pm and again three hours later. Earlier in the week a Catholic schoolboy, James Doran was shot in the back with a pellet gun as he was walking home along the Limestone Road. The 15-year-old, who thought he had been shot with a handgun, collapsed as he arrived home and had to be treated for shock.

Meanwhile, in the Short Strand district of East Belfast, 17-year-old Anthony Quinn was badly beaten during an abduction attempt by a loyalist mob. The mob had gathered at the junction of Albert Bridge and Mountpottinger Road before attacking Catholic homes in the nearby Clindeboye estate.

In full view of the local RUC barracks, the Catholic teenager was badly beaten before making his escape. In hospital Anthony was treated for a serious head wound and admitted with concussion. Hours earlier another Short Strand teenager 17-year-old Joseph Brown was injured when a car driving from a loyalist area drove at speed at the Catholic youth.

Last Monday, trouble flared in North Belfast when gangs of loyalists attacked Catholic homes with bolts, bottles and bricks in the Duncairn Gardens area. A blast bomb thrown at local residents fell in the front garden of one house hitting a 14-year-old boy before exploding. Helen Ellis (17) was standing beside the boy when the bomb was thrown from the loyalist Tigers Bay area.

``I saw it coming towards us and went to run but it hit the boy in the back before exploding on the ground, `` said Helen, ``it scared me to death and I feel very lucky to be alive.'' A neighbour described taking the boy into her house before fetching his mother and rushing him to hospital. ``He was in shock and very sick,'' she said, ``he was blown off his feet.''

A third teenager was blown off a nearby wall where he had been sitting. ``I heard a loud blast and fell over,'' said 16-year-old Billy Reid, ``thankfully I wasn't hurt but this has got to stop or someone will be.'' Earlier that day a bus carrying Catholic children from the same area was pelted with missiles as it left for a daytrip to the seaside town of Bangor, Co. Down.

A Catholic father of two has described his family as ``lucky to be alive'' following a loyalist pipe bomb attack on his North Belfast home. The attack in Ingledale Park, off the Crumlin Road, North Belfast, took place on Tuesday night.

The man and his 12-year-old daughter were watching television when the device was thrown at the house, smashing the living room window. ``I grabbed by daughter and ran out of the room,'' said the man, ``she was only a few feet from the window and could have been scarred for life or killed.''

Two men wearing dark clothes were seen running towards the loyalist Forthriver estate after the attack. ``We have lived in this house for 20 years,'' said the man, ``it will take time for us all to feel safe again.''

In West Belfast, a device was thrown at the home of a prominent community worker in the Tullymore Gardens area. The attack took place at 6am on Sunday 19 when the device was thrown into the garden. It was discovered several hours later. A second device was also discovered on the Hannahstown Hill Road at about the same time.

And Lower Sinn Fein Councillor Marie Cush has urged nationalists to be vigilant after a Ballymurphy man received a bullet through the post accompanied by a death threat sign by the Red Hand Defenders, a cover name for the UDA. Bombay Street was again targeted by petrol bombers, who pelted nationalist homes from the loyalist Cupar's Way.

In Castlederg, Co. Tyrone, the home of a Catholic family was targeted in a paint bomb attack. Windows were smashed and there was paint damage to one room and the front of the house. The family's car was also attacked. Declan Corry said his family had lived in the house for over twelve years.

Loyalists also firebombed a republican monument on the Fermanagh border, causing minor damage to a memorial to Sean South and Feargal O'Hanlan on the outskirts of Roslea.

A 200-year-old Catholic Chapel was damaged in a sectarian arson attack last Wednesday night. A fire was started at St. Peter's, the Rock Church, Stoneyford, around midnight but was quickly spotted by a passing driver. The local parishioner used a fire extinguisher to put the fire out, saving the chapel from serious damage. This is the second time in three year that that chapel had been targeted.

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