Top Issue 1-2024

18 April 2002 Edition

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UDA attacks continue

A UDA gunman fired four shots from the Westland Estate in North Belfast at a group of terrified Catholic teenagers on the night of Saturday 6 April. A group of friends were standing at the top pond of the Waterworks when a gunman appeared out of the Westland Estate and fired indiscriminately at the group.

No-one was injured in the attack but one teenager said the gunman was standing at houses facing directly on to the Waterworks. "At first we didn't realise what was happening then we recognised it was gunfire directed at us. I was terrified and we just started to run, one of us could easily been hit ".

Local community worker Tony Harrison says this highlights the sectarian attacks in this area. He added: "It seems that despite the area being quiet on Saturday night loyalist gunmen have came out and attempted to murder innocent nationalists."

Last month, an Antrim Road schoolboy was savagely beaten by a gang of men at the Westland and Cavehill junction. He needed reconstructive surgery to his face after the attack. Sinn Féin Councillor Eoin Ó Broin called for nationalists to be vigilant in this very tense period.

Family denied new home

Upper Bann Sinn Féin Assembly member Dara O'Hagan has condemned the RUC/PSNI for its failure to issue a SPED (special purchase of evacuated dwellings) certificate to a young Catholic family intimidated out of their home in Craigavon.

Speaking to An Phoblacht, O'Hagan said: "This young couple and their two children where forced from their home in February 2002 by drug dealers and loyalists in the Westacres estate in Craigavon. Their initial request to the Housing Executive to be placed on the SPED scheme was turned down because the RUC/PSNI refused to issue the relevant certificate, on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence of a threat.

"I wrote to the British security minister asking her to look at this case; on Saturday 6 April the couple's home was burnt out due to being firebombed. Thankfully they had taken refuge elsewhere. What evidence does the RUC/PSNI require to issue a certificate, when this young couple could have been burned to death? Have the RUC/PSNI misinformed their own security minister? I believe questions need to be answered."

Brits allow loyalists to tear down flags

Sinn Féin councillor for the Oldpark area, Gerard Brophy, has slammed the complicity of the British Army stationed on the Limestone Road and Tigers Bay interface in North Belfast.

At about 7am on Tuesday 16 April a gang of loyalists from Tigers Bay, armed with knives, passed within 30 yards of the British Army patrol and proceeded to take down nationalist flags and then went onto a local shop and threatened the female shopkeeper.

"What is the use of having a so-called security presence when they are complicit in attacks on the nationalist community?" Brophy asked. "It is extremely lucky that there was nobody around at the time or we could be dealing with another stabbing. I am calling for an immediate explanation to the actions of the British Army. Once again, they have proven themselves to be completely partisan and in league with the UDA."

The Sinn Féin councillor also blamed loyalists for provoking trouble in the Limestone Road area of North Belfast on Tuesday afternoon, 16 April. According to Brophy, drunken loyalists came out of Hallidays Road and started throwing bottles towards the nationalist Newington Street. Some nationalist retaliated and at one point some of these threw fireworks at the loyalists.

Brophy discounted loyalist claims that nationalists had initiated the trouble or that they threw a blast bomb.

Harassment continues for nationalists

Sinn Féin Mid-Ulster MP Martin McGuinness has said he will be raising the actions of the RIR in the Coalisland area on the night of Monday 15 April with the British Government. On an approach road into the nationalist town of Coalisland, the RIR mounted a massive stop and search operation, resulting in nationalists being harassed.

"I received numerous complaints from nationalists in the area who were stopped and searched in this operation," said the Sinn Féin MP. "This was blatant harassment and is completely unacceptable. I will be demanding that the British government explain the motivation behind this activity, which is a breach of the Good Friday Agreement and an attempt by the RIR to undermine the ongoing peace process".

Meanwhile, North Belfast Assembly member Gerry Kelly has hit out at the continuing harassment by the RUC/PSNI of those working in ex-prisoners' groups. A member of staff at the Tar Anall centre in Belfast and her child almost crashed into another vehicle when she was forced off the Antrim Road by an unmarked RUC/PSNI armoured car. The occupants then got out and searched her car before driving off again.


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