9 May 2002 Edition

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In brief

McBride's mother meets Reid

North Belfast woman Jean McBride is to meet the British Secretary of State John Reid over the British Army's decision to allow her son's killers, Scots Guardsmen Mark Wright and James Fisher to stay in the British Army. Peter McBride was 18 years old when he was shot in the back by the two Guardsmen in 1992.

McBride will meet Reid for the first time to challenge him over his support for the convicted murderers while he was a minister in the Defence Ministry. At the time reid refused to meet with Jean McBride, even though he took a stand in support of the soldiers convicted of killing her son.

Jean McBride said the campaign to get justice for her son has entered a new phase and added that she would not give up the fight to have the soldiers dismissed from the army.

"John Reid as defence minister publicly supported the release from prison of Fisher and Wright and met with their families, but at the time refused to meet me," she said. "I want John Reid to know I am fully aware of everything he did as defence minister including allowing the families of these soldiers to use MoD facilities for their campaign to free them."

She said she will be calling on Reid to publicly declare that the rules over the killings of nationalists in the Six Counties are unjust.

Wild attack on children

Three 12-year-old Catholic boys were forced to run for their lives after a loyalist jumped from his car and chased them with a wooden chair leg.

Theywere walking along Alliance Avenue in North Belfast on Monday 29 April when the loyalist ran towards the youngsters wielding the wooden club in the air and screaming "what religion are you?" at the young lads.

As the children ran in terror from their assailant, one of them fell and the man began to hit him across the back with the club.

According to Sinn Féin councillor for the area Margaret McClenaghan, "this man was giving the child a vicious beating and only for the intervention of a man and wife who came out of their house, the boy would have been seriously injured". In the event, the young boy needed hospital treatment.

The attacker got back into his car yelling threats and insults about "Fenian bastards" at the people helping the child. He then drove along Alliance Avenue where he again stopped his car, jumped from the vehicle, got out and ran towards two young girls, who ran away from him. The car involved was last seen driving into the loyalist Glenbryn district. The RUC/PSNI confirmed to a relative of one of the children that they had a man in custody. They said they were considering charging the man with drink driving offences.

"These innocent children have been completely traumatised by the actions of this man," said a relative. "We were when we went to report this attack that the man had already been released."

Catholic girl targeted in Antrim

Sinn Féin's Áine Gribben is warning nationalists in Antrim to remain vigilant after a teenage girl became the latest casualty of the ongoing loyalist campaign in Antrim town.

Gribbon told An Phoblacht that "loyalist attacks are notably on the increase and if it wasn't for the quick action of residents from the Stiles Farm on this occasion, the outcome might have been fatal".

According to Gribben, the 13-year-old girl was walking home through the Stiles area with her two female friends at 9.30pm on Saturday 4 May when the loyalists jumped from a blue Peugeot car and chased them. The young girl was struck on the head three times with a bottle by one of the men before she fell to the ground, when she was further set upon by three other men who kicked her. The attack only ended when her friend's screaming alerted residents and the perpetrators fled.

Residents claim that the blue Peugeot car involved was spotted earlier cruising in the Stiles Farm area and that a dark coloured car accompanied it.

Added Gribben: "Initially, the young girls thought this may have been a sex attack but the attackers were shouting "fenian bastard" while kicking the girl as she lay on the ground.

Markets attack

A UDA gang who attacked houses at Joy Street in the Markets area of South Belfast on Saturday night 4 May were armed with iron bars.

As the attack was going on and residents came out to protect their homes, the loyalists turned on them. A community worker from the area who was trying to defuse the situation was also attacked and sustained a broken arm.

Local people said the loyalists continued to carry out sporadic attacks on homes until the early hours of Sunday morning.

Earlier at about 6.30pm a gang of UDA members who spent all day drinking in a well known UDA pub on the Upper Ormeau Road attacked nationalist drinkers in a nearby pub.

Ballymena nationalists assaulted

A gang of between 15 and 20 loyalists wearing Rangers scarves as masks attacked a number of Catholics as they sat in a Chinese restaurant in Ballymena's William Street in the early hours of Sunday morning, 5 May.

According to Philip McGuigan, Ballymoney Sinn Féin councillor, the loyalists arrived at the restaurant with wooden batons similar to those carried by the RUC/PSNI concealed in their clothes. Two young men who were on the premises were beaten about the head in the attack and were hospitalised as a result. One was released later on Sunday but had to go back in after he began vomiting.

McGuigan called the behaviour of the RUC/PSNI into question on Saturday. "I am calling on the RUC/PSNI to disclose what they saw with CCTV cameras and I am asking why they didn't do anything to prevent the attack," he said.

UDA attack Randalstown pub

A Catholic-owned pub in the County Antrim town of Randalstown was the latest premises in the South Antrim area to be targeted by the UDA when a pipe bomb was left on the window ledge of Lavery's on Wednesday, 3 May.

Another pipe bomb was found in a laneway near an old people's home two hours after the first device was discovered.

Orange Order challenged over arch

A disabled resident of Glengormley, on the outskirts of North Belfast, is to continue to seek a judicial review into the erection of an Orange Order arch in the town.

The RUC/PSNI and the Department of the Environment have been brought to court by the disabled resident over the placing of the Orange arch opposite the Hightown Road. Campaigners against the arch say it has been erected illegally in the past they accuse the RUC/PSNI of blatantly stopping traffic to facilitate the illegal erecting of the arch.

A spokesperson for the Orange Order said they were awaiting the decision and would consider their position once a legal ruling has been made.

Sinn Féin's Martin Meehan said "the Orange Order have made a statement about minimising the concerns of local residents when they have steadfastly refused to talk to residents' groups about their triumphalist marches throughout their areas."

Derry residents slam A-Team tactics

The British Army put the lives of children and residents of a Derry estate at risk by flying helicopters close to them and their homes say residents. During the incident on Saturday afternoon, 4 May, a British Army helicopter landed yards from homes after zooming in extremely low over rooftops in what residents said was "an erratic fashion".

Chairperson of Fernabbey Residents Association Eddie O'Neill said he had been told by one woman that the aircraft hovered so close to the houses that she could see the whites of their eyes. "Children were screaming and there was panic with people running about not knowing what was happening," he said.

Stunned residents reported seeing around 30 RUC/PSNI and British soldiers in boiler suits and balaclavas leave the helicopter and lie on the grass, while the helicopter took off again. The RUC/PSNI told residents that this was merely a routine patrol.

Sinn Féin councillor for the area Tony Hassan accused the British Army of behaving like something out of the A-Team.

An Phoblacht
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Dublin 1