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10 January 2002 Edition

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Holy Cross parents attacked

Trouble flared in North Belfast on Wednesday after Holy Cross parents were abused and attacked by loyalists, a provocation followed by attacks on the school itself and then on nationalist Ardoyne by loyalist mobs.

The loyalist violence caused the Board of Governors of Holy Cross to close the girls' primary school for at least one day. Chair of the Board of Governors, Fr Aidan Troy, said the Board made the decision for the best interests of the safety of the children and parents.

The latest trouble came after a woman collecting her daughter from the Holy Cross school on Wednesday afternoon was assaulted by a loyalist. As she moved to ward him off, his cronies set about her, leaving her with a black eye.

The loyalists had been hanging about verbally abusing and spitting at women making their way to the school at the end of lessons.

As news of the incident spread and parents made their way to the school, sirens and horns were sounded in Glenbryn and a car containing some loyalists and followed by a crowd of up to 30 others drove into the school grounds, blocking the gates. The loyalists then attacked the school.

Glenbryn residents then blocked the Ardoyne Road and forced a stand off. Pupils trapped in the school and their parents were eventually brought out through an emergency exit and were bussed from the school along the Crumlin Road to the Ardoyne Shops.

The trouble intensified as loyalists came out onto the Upper Ardoyne Road from Hesketh and another mob came from Twaddell Avenue. It was at this point that three nationalist men were hit by gunfire, believed to shot,gun blasts.

Speaking to An Phoblacht, Sinn Féin councillor for the area, Margaret McClenaghan, said one of the men was taken to hospital with serious head injuries.

The Mercy primary school on the Upper Crumlin Road was also attacked by loyalists and as the RUC/PSNI moved in, at least two nationalists were run over by Land Rovers. One suffered serious leg injuries. Another woman was injured in a hit and run by a car believed to be driven by loyalists.

Brendan Mailey of the Right to Education Group said that loyalists had been provoking parents as they walked along on the Ardoyne Road since the start of the new school term.

Sinn Féin Assembly member for the area, Gerry Kelly, said the attacks were clearly coordinated. "It is obvious to me by the way in which the mobs came out of Glenbryn, Twaddell Avenue and Hesketh at the sound of horns and sirens that loyalists were planning this. I blame the UDA. Their sectarian agenda is once again coming to the fore."


Nationalists living in fear


Any hopes of a reprieve, however temporary, from loyalist violence over the Christmas and New Year period were dashed as Catholic families in the North of Ireland continued to be targeted in a sustained campaign of sectarian attack.

Loyalist violence not only continued throughout December and into January, but also included some of the most serious attacks witnessed this year.

During a ferocious knife attack by loyalists from the Tigers Bay area of North Belfast, Joe Murphy was repeatedly stabbed in the face and head. Neighbours who ran to the aid of the seriously injured man physically held his skull together until the ambulance crew arrived.

Patricia Ferran and her four youngest children, only by chance, escaped certain death and serious injury when a bomb constructed out of scaffolding pipe was thrown into her home. The device, the most deadly of its type to date, was packed with shrapnel and explosives.

According to recently released official statistics, 2001 witnessed a 200% increase compared to the pervious year in the number of shootings and bomb attacks. In the year 2000, just over 130 shooting incidents were recorded, compared to just over 330 for last year.

Bomb attacks also increased three fold, with almost a 180 recorded incidents compare to over 60 in 2000. The number of injured recorded by the statistics rose from almost 900 in the previous year to over 1,100 in 2001. The majority of those injured were civilians.

What the statistics don't explicitly reveal, but nevertheless reflect experience on the ground, is that the sustained increase in violence over the last two years has been loyalist. The figures add weight to the northern nationalist community's experience of a sustained loyalist campaign of anti-Catholic violence.

The impact of loyalist violence has also been reflected in housing figures released by the Housing Executive. In 1994 to 1996, around 3,000 people moved into housing within areas dominated by the other religion. In the years that followed, 1996 to 2001, over 6,000 families fled their homes because of sectarian intimidation and moved back among their co religionists.

The overwhelming majority of those who fled their homes have been Catholics. In the early days of the peace process and in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement's promise of freedom from sectarian harassment, thousands of Catholic families ventured outside the ghetto and sought housing in predominantly Protestant areas. But in the five years since the first Drumcree riots thousands of Catholic families have been forced to flee by loyalist mobs.

In an article last summer, Robin Livingstone of the Andersonstown News referred to 'the truth that dare not speak its name'. Sectarian violence is overwhelmingly loyalist and anti-Catholic, but that simple fact is routinely fudged and obscured, by mainstream journalists, broadcasters, politicians and academics.

This collective conspiracy of denial may be more casual than organised but it still represents a framework of interpretation dominated by a British pro-Union agenda. Within the imperative of defending the Union, the suffering of northern nationalists must be continually marginalised and anti-Catholic violence and discrimination obscured.

And there are powerful mechanisms in place to achieve this end. The RUC, now revamped as the PSNI, routinely redefines sectarian loyalist attacks on Catholic homes as trouble between rival groups and reclassifies loyalist pipe bomb attacks as "just fireworks".

The Housing Executive obscures loyalist violence as a key mechanism by insisting that overcrowding and homelessness in Catholic housing estates are underpinned by "choice". Catholics seeking accommodation "choose" "popular" areas and therefore must tolerate lengthy waiting lists, poor repair and overcrowding.

A recent study based on early census returns and conducted by University of Ulster lecturer Dr Peter Shirlow identifies a greater polarisation between the Catholic and Protestant communities in the north. According to the study, an estimated 66% of people now live in an area where the resident population is either 90% Protestant or 90% Catholic.

A survey of six areas segregated by a 'peace wall' found that 62% of the residents consider relations to have deteriorated since the peace process started. 68% of people aged 18 to 25 have never had a meaningful conversation with anyone of the other denomination and 62% have been victims of sectarian abuse. Only 5% of Catholics and 8% of Protestants actually work in an area dominated by the other community.

The majority of both communities refuse to shop, attend health and job centres in the 'wrong' area even when the facilities are more convenient. The picture of segregation exposed by Dr Shirlow is shocking in itself and should send alarm bell ringing.

But without exposing of the role of loyalist violence, more specifically the UDA's current campaign of anti-Catholic violence, the study will feed rather than dispel prevailing myths of sectarianism as reciprocal unpleasantness. Meanwhile, thousands of Catholic families continue to live under the constant threat of imminent loyalist attack.


Bomber was in UDA

A loyalist killed when the bomb he was handling exploded was a member of the UDA. Loyalist spokesperson John White confirmed to the media that 19-year-old William Campbell, who died last Thursday, 3 January, was in the UDA.

Campbell was killed instantly in an alley way at Winston Way in the Heights area of Coleraine after a bomb he was carrying went off. The device was of the pipe bomb type commonly used by the UDA, although in this case the bomb was fitted with an electronic timer.

The development of such a sophisticated detonating mechanism indicates that the loyalist terror gang is intent on intensifying its bombing campaign.

In the past number of years the Coleraine area, which is at the heart of the UDA's Derry and North Antrim Brigade, has seen numerous attacks on Catholics and their homes.


Newington stabbing: Reminiscent of Shankill Butchers

If there was a lull in loyalist attacks on nationalists living in the Limestone Road and Newington areas of North Belfast over the Christmas and New Year holidays, it was hard to notice.

In the week over the holiday period, up to five serious attacks were launched against nationalists living in the area, including gun and bomb attacks.

The UDA was responsible for these attempts to kill and it was only through sheer luck that no one was killed.

45-year-old Joe Murphy probably had the luckiest escape after being stabbed five times in the head in a frenzied knife attack that had echoes of the Shankill Butcher killings of the mid 1970s.

It was in the early hours of Wednesday, 2 January, when Murphy, who lives in Newington Street, heard banging at the door of a neighbour's house. As the street has been under constant attack from loyalist gangs, Murphy was alert to what was going on and with a number of other neighbours they went out to chase the loyalists away.

"There were four or five loyalists in the street and when they saw us they backed off down towards the Limestone Road," he said. "One of them was really defiant and kept egging us on and I went down to scare him off and it was then that he suddenly lunged at me and stabbed me in the head."

In the assault, Murphy was stabbed about five times in the head, as well as a wound to the shoulder and a hand wound.

Murphy was rushed to the Mater Hospital's A&E Department, where he had numerous staples inserted into his head wounds and seven stitches in the hand wound. He spent the next two days in hospital.

Describing the attack to An Phoblacht, Murphy said he believed his attacker was on drugs. "He was in a frenzy as he kept stabbing me and his face was contorted with rage and hatred.

"I don't remember what happened next or how the attack was actually stopped but when I came round I was in the house and I felt the blood running down my face and thinking, 'you can't bleed like this and live'. Also I had given a pint of blood on New Year's Eve and I kept thinking that wouldn't help me."

Some of Joe Murphy's children played about the house as we sat in his front room. "You know," he said, "my eight-year-old daughter Fiona wrote her letter to Santa just before Christmas and she warned him to watch himself coming into our street because of all the trouble. The attacks are having such a big effect on the children's lives and you have to be on your toes all the time checking them because you don't know when the loyalists will attack."


That's my mummy's house


The news bulletin showed film footage of a devastated front living room of yet another Belfast family home attacked by loyalists - now entering their third year of a sustained anti-Catholic campaign of violence.

The device, a piece of scaffolding pipe packed with shrapnel and explosives, smashed through the front window, ploughed through the carpet and floor boards and blasted a metre-square hole in the middle of the room.

The ferocity of the blast blew out all the glass in the windows and demolished furniture. Shards of metal were propelled into the ceiling and walls, bringing fistfuls of plaster down. Shrapnel ripped through an armchair.

"That's my mummy's house," confided six-year-old Nicole, watching the television in her uncle's home the day after the attack.

Patricia and four of her six children were upstairs when a loyalist gang threw a bomb through the downstairs window of the family's Manor Street home. It was shortly before 10pm and just three days into the New Year.

Twenty minutes earlier, the family had been watching a film together. During the Christmas holiday there had been no particular rush to put the children to bed. Nine-year-old Jonathon was watching 'Men in Black' with his mother. His two younger sisters, Nicole and four-year-old Christine were playing with baby Sean (15 months).

"The film finished about 9.30pm and shortly after that I gathered the children together and took them upstairs to bed," says Patricia. In the front bedroom Patricia lay down beside her youngest two children as she settled them down to sleep. The two elder children were in bed in a back bedroom.

"I heard a loud bang, an explosion, but at first I thought the noise was outside in the street," says Patricia. I grabbed the two children sleeping beside me and ran into the back room. And then Jonathon said he smelt smoke."

In the next few desperate minutes Patricia faced a dilemma. If the house was on fire every second lost in getting the children out increased the risk to their lives. But if the house was under attack by loyalists, to leave the house might pose the greater risk.

"I didn't know what to do," says Patricia, "I could hear someone banging on the front door. I thought loyalists were trying to get in."

Outside, Patricia's neighbours desperately tried to raise the alarm. Eventually, Patricia heard a familiar voice and carrying Christina and Sean in her arms, made her way downstairs to open the front door.

"There was smoke in the stairway," says Patricia. "I carried the youngest two and Jonathon grabbed his younger sister and carried her out." Jonathon, dressed in his pyjamas and bare-foot, cut his feet on shattered glass as he made his way out.

"I'm so thankful, my neighbours were just wonderful," says Patricia. "One neighbour took the children into her home and settled them down. I'm so grateful for all their help and support."

The house on Manor Street is now boarded up and empty. The family are staying with relatives until they can be rehoused. "I can't help thinking about what might have happened," says Patricia. "I've lost my home but I could have lost my family."


Loyalist violence during the Christmas period

Two Catholic brothers targeted in a loyalist abduction attempt in Ligoniel, North Belfast on December 11.

Catholic family escape injury in a loyalist pipe bomb attack at their home in Articlave, Co. Derry on December 13.

Ardoyne Catholic escaped loyalist abduction attempt on December 16. A caller claiming to be from the RHD to a Belfast newsroom named the man targeted.

A Catholic in the Markets area of Belfast received a bullet in the post on December 18. The father of five had already been told his name was on a loyalist death list.

A family escape injury in a loyalist pipe bomb attack on their home in the village of Clogh, County Antrim on December 20.

Catholic teenagers standing at the corner of Newington Street, North Belfast on December 25 attacked by loyalist blast bombers.

Catholic families targeted by a loyalist gunman who opened fire on the Limestone Road, North Belfast shortly before 10pm December 25.

A Catholic mother of two, Donna McDaid, was targeted by loyalist gunman in North Belfast on December 27. Six shots were fired through her living room window after the attacker failed to lure Donna into answering her front door.

Catholic homes in Newington Street, North Belfast, attacked in the early hours of January 1st by loyalists 'celebrating' the New Year.

Catholic mother, Marian Kane and grandchild Sean escape injury when they Whitewell Road home was attacked by loyalist gang in the early hours of January 1st. One of three Catholic homes in the area, the Kane family have been attacked 20 times within the last two years.

A Catholic father of five, Joe Murphy was repeatedly stabbed in the face and head near his Newington Street home by a loyalist mob from Tigers Bay on January 2.

UDA member, William Campbell from Coleraine, dies when a pipe bomb he is carrying prematurely explodes on January 3.

A Catholic mother of six, Patricia Ferran and four of her children escape injury when loyalist bomb her Manor Street home in North Belfast on January 3.

Two injured as loyalist target the home of a prison warden in Ballysillan with a pipe bomb on January 6.

North Belfast Republican Martin Meehan and his family were targeted by loyalists who aborted the attack on January 6, a caller using the name of the RHD claimed.


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