17 January 2002 Edition
Gunned down by the UDA
Young postal worker was soft target
It has been a dreadful week. Serious trouble in North Belfast sparked by loyalists last Wednesday culminated in the shooting dead of a Catholic postal worker on Saturday by the UDA and with death threats hanging over Catholic teachers and postal workers.
As we go to print, the UDA appears to be drawing back in the face of public outrage at its actions, cynically 'demanding' that its own nom de plume, the Red Hand Defenders, which had issued the threats, disband. Postal workers, who had walked of the job in protest, returned to work at midnight but still shocked at the callous and cowardly killing of their colleague.
Daniel McColgan was shot dead by UDA gunmen as he arrived for work at the Barna Square post Office sorting office in the staunchly loyalist Rathcoole area on the outskirts of North Belfast last Saturday morning, 12 January.
The young man and his partner, Lyndsay Milliken, were the parents of an infant daughter Bethany. They lived in the beleaguered Longlands Court area, a small estate that has been under constant loyalist attack. Only last week, An Phoblacht reported on the vulnerability of nationalists in the area.
McColgan was shot several times by at least two gunmen as he pulled up to the gates of the depot. He stood no chance.
And as the young man was being buried on Tuesday, 15 January, the media reported that a former UDP councillor from the area, Tommy Kirkham, was being questioned by the RUC/PSNI about the shooting. Kirkham, who resigned from the UDP because of its support for the Good Friday Agreement, was later released.
Thousands of people attended the McColgan funeral to Carnmoney Cemetery, including many elected representatives from the North Belfast area. Gerry Kelly, the Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast, represented the party.
Sinn Féin councillor Breige Meehan had warned postal authorities last April that the siting of a Post Office depot in the Rathcoole area would lead to the assassination of a Catholic. Meehan's warning, which went unheeded, ended up in the death of Catholic postal worker Daniel McColgan last Saturday, 12 January. The Post Office has now said it will close the Rathcoole depot.
Speaking to An Phoblacht, Meehan said the tragic death of Daniel McColgan could have been avoided. "I was only expressing the views and articulating the worries of nationalist customers who had to use the Rathcoole depot and the fears of Catholics who worked there."
Meehan also said that since the killing of Daniel McColgan, she has been told that another Catholic worker was targeted as he went to the Barna Square depot just before Christmas. In that instance, the man spotted the two gunmen and was able to evade them.
The death of a postal worker
BY LAURA FRIEL
Within the last year, loyalists have killed four Catholics, including Daniel McColgan just a few days ago, and a further two people killed in the mistaken belief they were Catholics
It was shortly after 4.30am in the early hours of Saturday morning when 20-year-old Catholic Daniel McColgan drove his Ford Fiesta into the Barna Square postal depot in Rathcoole, a loyalist area of North Belfast. Daniel, a postal worker based at the sorting office, lived with his partner Lyndsay Milliken in the nearby Catholic Longlands Court estate. The couple have a one-year-old daughter.
A child from a mixed marriage, Daniel was well known at the local British Legion club, where his Protestant grandfather was a member and Daniel often worked as a Disc Jockey. In the sorting office in Rathcoole, Daniel was one of only two Catholic postal workers stationed at the depot but he seems to have been unaware of the risk he was taking.
As he stepped out of his car, two masked men approached him and opened fire. Daniel was shot seven times at close range and died a short time later at the nearby Mater Hospital. His assailants' getaway car, a silver Renault, was later discovered burnt out in the nearby loyalist White City area.
The loyalist Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by both the UDA and LVF, claimed responsibility for Daniel McColgan's death. A few hours before the killing, a caller to a Belfast newspaper had threatened Catholic postal workers and Catholic school staff, including "all teachers, cleaning staff, principals, and any Catholic who works in these schools."
The loyalist caller claimed that these groups were "antagonising" the loyalist community. "We will shoot them," he said. During a follow up call after the killing, the caller reiterated threats against all Catholic postal workers who were described as "legitimate targets".
In mathematics, problem solving is based on the adoption of the most 'elegant' resolution. There may be a number of routes to resolution but the simplest overrides the rest. Last week, listening to the convoluted nonsense that passes as explanation in the wake of loyalist violence, it was clear that similar discerning principles have yet to be applied to the understanding of social phenomena.
Interviewed on Radio Ulster's midday 'Talkback' programme, a psychiatrist added to the litany of explanations of recent loyalist violence - specifically around the Catholic Holy Cross School - to have been proferred by commentators.
The loyalist blockade of Holy Cross and rioting in North Belfast could be understood as an 'addiction to the limelight', a form of 'attention seeking', the psychiatrist told the BBC's David Dunseith.
During this sustained campaign of sectarian violence, there have been hundreds of loyalist pipe and petrol bombings and numerous gun attacks. Within the last year, loyalists have killed four Catholics, including Daniel McColgan just a few days ago, and a further two people killed in the mistaken belief they were Catholics.
Last July, 19-year-old Catholic Ciaran Cummings was shot dead as he waited for a lift to work. A few days later 18-year-old Gavin Brett was shot dead as he talked to Catholic friends outside a GAA club in North Belfast. Earlier in June, 25-year-old John McCormack, a witness to a shooting during the loyalist feud, was shot dead. In Septemeber, journalist Martin O Hagan was shot dead outside his Lurgan home.
During the blockade of Holy Cross Primary School, Catholic schoolchildren, some as young as four, and their parents have been subjected to months of sectarian abuse and attack.
The short reprieve following the lifting of the blockade just before Christmas ended just a few days into the new term, with a comprehensive threat against Catholic education. This week, Catholic teachers and other school staff have joined pupils and parents on the loyalist death list.
The threat of loyalist violence during the journey to and from school has now been extended to the school grounds and the classroom and the entire school day. In the words of local priest, Fr Aiden Troy, "we're not just back to square one, this is much worse."
During an armed attack on North Belfast's Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School for Girls, masked loyalists carrying crowbars smashed teachers' cars parked in the school grounds. Gunmen armed with a rifle and handgun accompanied the assailants.
During the attack, terrified pupils and their teachers feared armed loyalists were about to break into the school and frantically telephoned for help. As Tom Gillen of the ICTU pointed out, the attack was "just one pull of the trigger away from murder". Tragically, Gillen's comment proved prophetic.
Meanwhile, the loyalist campaign of hate spread to other areas with sectarian arson attacks at St. Brides Primary School in South Belfast and St Patrick's High School in Lisburn caused extensive fire damage.
Against this backdrop, commentators have consistently argued that loyalist violence can be attributed to a 'pick and mix' range of grievances around employment, education, public housing and community development. Loyalist attacks on their Catholic neighbours, we are told, stem from social problems exacerbated by an inability or unwillingness to air their grievances.
But if the main preoccupations of loyalism are employment, housing and education, where are the folk songs, wall murals, right to work campaigns, claimants unions, and tenants' rights groups? Evidence points to an entirely different loyalist preoccupation.
The campaign of anti-Catholic sectarian violence, the vile abuse and brutal attacks reflects the deeply reactionary, racist and sectarian ethos that has dominated the loyalist agenda since the imposition of partition
In the wake of the latest killing, it was even suggested that a Protestant reluctance to "ask for charity" lies at the root of the problem. (In itself a sectarian comment, presumably as opposed to Catholic scroungers).
Are we really being called upon to accept that the current murderous violence visited on Catholic families, schoolchildren and workers, is a result of a virtuous adherence to self-reliance? Catch yourself on, Alistair Dunlop.
And all the time the simple truth is staring us in the face. The campaign of anti-Catholic sectarian violence, the vile abuse and brutal attacks reflects the deeply reactionary, racist and sectarian ethos that has dominated the loyalist agenda since the imposition of partition.
That simple truth is reflected not only in what loyalists do but also in what they say. "All taigs are targets," reads the street graffiti accompanying the latest killing of a Catholic in Rathcoole. Loyalism is up to its neck in Fenian blood; Orangemen are anti-Catholic, not anti-capitalist.
The truth might be as clear as the writing on the wall but for some it is also the most difficult to acknowledge. Prior to the peace process, loyalist violence against the northern nationalist community had been routinely portrayed as a 'tit for tat' reciprocal response to the IRA's campaign. It wasn't even true then but at least it was plausible.
Within the present context of the peace process and IRA cessation, loyalist violence continues to be portrayed in the same manner, no matter how bizarre.
Following the UDA killing of Catholic postal worker Daniel McColgan, the media repeatedly called for "no retaliation", as if a republican counterplot existed.
Accompanying a full front-page picture of the murdered postal worker and his girlfriend, the Sunday Life ran the caption, "Slain man's partner pleads for no revenge". The call was repeated throughout the weekend on radio and television.
At one point it was even suggested that McColgan had been killed by loyalists in 'retaliation' for the death of a Protestant teenager who died in a car accident involving a Catholic driver over four months ago.
It has been universally acknowledged, even by the British government, that the UDA's ceasefire is over and has been for many months. Despite deliberate provocation, the IRA ceasefire remains intact.
But these facts are conveniently fudged in 'cycle of violence' commentaries in which loyalist violence, demonstrably real, is ipso facto represented as underpinned by republican violence, however fictitious.
This persistent state of denial, reflected in the media and perpetuated within the wider political arena, can be easily explained. For what the British government and its institutions have sought to excuse, the British military have sought to harness, recruiting, organising and arming violent loyalism in the interests of British occupation.
The present reluctance of the British government to act decisively against loyalists currently engaged in a sustained anti-Catholic pogrom is indicative of that relationship. But it isn't just a case of a government loath to move against former allies. It's much worst than that.
The British established the UDA and as an organisation it is riddled with British agents, either working for Special Branch or other intelligence agencies.
Northern nationalists fear that anti-Agreement securocrats within British rule may be orchestrating the UDA's campaign. The apparent 'inability' of the PSNI/RUC to arrest and charge the perpetrators of loyalist violence further fuels this suspicion.
"How the British government responds to the threat from the UDA and from its securocrats who are involved with that organisation, is a test for the British government," Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams recently told a Belfast press conference. "Nationalists and republicans see the British response to the UDA as a measure of its seriousness about the peace process."
Unfortunately, the British Secretary of State's response to the brutal sectarian killing of Daniel McColgan dispelled none of the myths. The killing had been carried out by "evil people", said John Reid. And if evil people get their way Protestants and Catholics would be at risk.
There was no such ambiguity in the Bishop's address to thousands of mourners who attended the postal worker's funeral mass at the Star of the Sea Church at Whitehouse.
"Daniel was singled out for murder for one reason and one reason only. He was a Catholic," said the Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Patrick Walsh.
"He was murdered by members of an organisation which has been specified by the Secretary of State, an organisation which is driven by a single agenda of sectarian hatred of Catholics."
Reid must take responsibility
BY MICHAEL PIERSE
The ease with which the major part of a normally suspicious Irish and British media accepted the bona fides of a statement from the UFF/UDA calling for the Red Hand Defenders to disband is symptomatic of a wider malaise in Irish and British political cricles.
It is not optimistic credulity and they're not foolhardy - if anything such attitudes thrive among those who are amongst the most educated and well-informed in Irish society. The debilitating sickness I'm speaking of is plain, old-fashioned disinterestedness.
John Reid, the British government, unionists and even, we are now told, loyalist death squads are 'appalled' at the attacks on and threats against children, teachers, postal workers and the ensuing social unrest. Each of them are at pains to publicly state their disgust, yet each of them are culpable for creating and maintaining the current situation by doing precisely nothing (or, in the case of loyalists, doing too much).
Let's get this clear. The UFF/UDA calling on the Red Hand Defenders (RHD) to disband is an act of gross organisational schizophrenia akin to neo-Nazi denials of the Holocaust. The UFF, UDA and RHD are one and the same. The exchangeable acronyms provide cover for their activities and allow the UDA to attribute their most heinous crimes to the UFF and RHD respectively. John Reid knows this, journalists know this and unionists know this. Alan McQuillan, the Deputy Chief Constable of the RUC/PSNI knows this too, yet he was willing to assure postal workers yesterday that the RHD threat to their lives has subsided.
The RUC and John Reid have a vested interest in the lie. Their efforts in keeping the collusion of the past 30 years quiet leaves loyalists, with whom they have long had an unholy relationship, with a license to unleash chaos.
Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, loyalists have been responsible for over 50 killings, 500 bomb attacks and 540 gun attacks, and these can't all be attributed to some supposedly miniscule, anonymous organisation called the RHD. As regards the killings, the RUC has only secured one conviction, while the detection rate for those involved in bombings and gun attacks is negligible.
Yet John Reid pledges to catch the killers of 20-year-old postal worker Daniel McColgan and advises that "everyone in Northern Ireland has to confront the struggle between peace and hatred". Richard Haass, George Bush's chief advisor on Ireland, warned us yesterday that "unless a majority in both communities is supportive" the peace process cannot move forward.
What incredible arrogance. The 'majority in both communities' is supportive. They want peace, they voted for it, they deserve it. The sad reality is that the UDA lead, or more aptly, control the people of Glenbryn and other loyalist areas through a vile mix of fear, crime and loathing, while those who should be showing progressive leadership in these areas watch on.
Richard Haass telling republicans to join the policing board, because we might see some demilitarisation, is an incoherent and mistaken piece of advice. Demilitarisation has nothing to do with policing. Demilitarisation is in the Agreement and should not be used as a bargaining chip. The continuing revelations of the extent of RUC collusion in the assassination of Pat Finucane point up excatly why republicans will not settle for a repackaged RUC with an unreconstructed Special Branch but will instead hold out for a policing service that will protect all of the community.
The SDLP have blundered badly by joining the policing board. In a choreographical disaster, the very day SDLP leader Mark Durkan proudly unveiled the new RUC/PSNI symbol, Nuala O'Loan releaseed her damning report into that same organisation and former RUC agent and Pat Finucane case witness William Stobie was shot dead.
Republicans are right to refuse to be a silent partner in this sham, but John Reid bears a responsibility for the suffering of the beleaguered people of North Belfast, who face daily attack from loyalists with the cold comfort of 'protection' from a police force they cannot trust.