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22 August 2002 Edition

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Ardoyne Catholics escape UDA gun attack

A Catholic family of five and a pensioner escaped serious injury on Tuesday night, 20 August, after the UDA sprayed their homes with gunfire just hours after the Red Hand Defenders (RHD), widely accepted as a cover name for the UDA, threatened to target North Belfast Catholics.

A woman and her 15-year-old were taken to hospital suffering from severe shock as seven shots hit the front of her Alliance Avenue home, with another bullet going through the bathroom window of a pensioner's home, causing flooding in the house after it hit a water tank.

The homeowner said that one bullet came through the front window and struck the wall inches from were his wife was sitting. "My wife and my son had to be taken to hospital they were badly shocked; these kind of attacks are happening every day now, there were no houses in Glenbryn attacked it is just another pretext to attack innocent Catholics."

Sinn Féin councillor for North Belfast Margaret McClenaghan said she knows the UDA are behind all these attacks on the Ardoyne area: "They use this lame excuse that homes in Glenbryn are being attacked - this is nonsense - all the attacks are coming from Glenbryn, we have people here who are very lucky to be alive. We have had bolts and golf balls thrown at these houses all day with members of the RUC/PSNI sitting here from 10am but all of a sudden they move, ten minutes before these homes are shot at. Questions have to be asked."

The woman was released from hospital only to be admitted again later on that night.

The RHD said that Catholics would be attacked by military means if houses in the Glenbryn estate were attacked. "These people don't want peace; issuing threats like this one and carrying them out hours later doesn't sound like a no first strike policy to me," added McCleneghan.


SF leads delegation to meet US Consul General

Sinn Féin councillors Margaret McClenaghan and Eoin O'Broin on Wednesday led a delegation of residents from Alliance Avenue in Ardoyne to meet with US Consul General Bairbre Stevenson. The meeting was requested by Sinn Féin to highlight the ongoing loyalist campaign targeted at nationalists in Ardoyne and other areas of Belfast.

Speaking after the meeting, McClenaghan said:

"Sinn Féin requested today's meeting in order to highlight the ongoing UDA campaign directed at the nationalist community in Ardoyne and other areas of Belfast. Since the announcement of the Loyalist 'no first strike' policy there have been more than 40 pipe bombings, 17 gun attacks and 77 other attacks. Almost half of these attacks have been concentrated in North Belfast. Last night saw the latest shooting in which a family on Alliance Avenue narrowly escaped injury or death.

"We felt that it was important for the US Consul General Bairbre Stevenson to hear first hand from residents about the reality for nationalists living on the interfaces. That reality is one of nightly attack with pipe bombs, blast bombs and gun attacks. Clearly the UDA is intent on killing people.

"Our message to Ms Stevenson was a simple one. The US Consulate must use their influence where possible to help bring this loyalist campaign to an end. We called on them to support the idea of outside monitors at the interfaces in order to provide independent verification of events on the ground. This would enable us to move away from the blame game and expose those responsible for the current violence.

"We also stressed that the present wave of violence could not and should not be presented as some form of 'tit-for-tat' campaign, but a cycle of violence instigated and orchestrated by the UDA with the intent of destabilising the entire political process.

"An invitation was extended to the US Consul General to come and visit the areas affected by the violence and see first hand the impact it is having on family and community life."


Reynolds in Ardoyne

Albert Reynolds was welcomed by Ardoyne Sinn Féin Councillor Margaret McClenaghan at this week's launch of Ardoyne; The Untold Story. The book recounts the stories of 99 Ardoyne people who lost their lives during the Troubles.

The former Taoiseach was joined by scriptwriter Jimmy McGovern, Belfast Mayor Alex Maskey and Holy Cross priest Fr Aiden Troy at the local GAA club on the anniversary of Sammy McLarnon and Michael Lynch, the first people from Ardoyne to be killed in the last 30 years of conflict.


PSNI told not to arrest loyalists

Alliance Avenue residents in North Belfast have asked the Police Ombudsman to investigate the comments of an RUC/PNSI member after he told residents he has been told not to arrest loyalist bombers from Glenbryn.

The officer told nationalists that his bosses in Oldpark RUC/PNSI station have ordered him not arrest loyalists from Glenbryn, despite cameras having caught hundreds of hours of loyalist gun and pipe bomb attacks on nationalist homes in Alliance Avenue.

Kathleen Rafferty, who is lodging the complaint, said "the RUC/PSNI sit in this area day and daily and no one is ever brought to court for these attacks on our homes and then we are told this news; I want this fully investigated."

Sinn Féin councillor for North Belfast, Margaret McClenaghan, said there was nothing surprising in the revelations, given the loyalist pogroms that have been going on in North Belfast for the past 18 months.

"In the past ten days alone loyalists have launched 13 gun and bomb attacks on houses in this area," she said. "We have stood here and watched as day after day loyalists have attacked these houses. Three weeks ago, a TV news team filmed loyalists from Glenbryn attacking houses in broad daylight and despite the mountain of evidence, not one person has been charged."

Car carrying sick child stoned

A car in which a Catholic child suffering from spina bifida and epilepsy was travelling was struck by a stone thrown by a group of loyalists standing on the Ballymena Road in Ahoghill, County Antrim on Wednesday night 14 August.

Sinn Féin Assembly member John Kelly said that it was a deplorable attack on an innocent family and was a very traumatising experience for everyone in the vehicle. "The intention of these loyalist was to injure anyone in this car, it is sickening that these people would want to hurt women and children."

UDA threat in post

A Twinbrook man fears for his life after he received a bullet through the post on Friday morning, 16 August. The man, who does not want to be named, told An Phoblacht that the bullet arrived at his home with a note saying 'See you soon scum bag, UFF'.

Sinn Féin Councillor for Twinbrook, Sue Ramsey, said this is just the latest incident in the area. "UDA flags were erected outside homes in Cherryhill a few weeks ago and last week a group of children were stoned by loyalists as they walked along the back of Summerhill," she said. "These are very worrying developments and I would call on anyone noticing anything suspicious to come forward. I would urge local people to be vigilant."

Gerard O'Neill, Sinn Féin councillor for Lenadoon, has warned people to be on their guard after well known loyalists from Blacks Road were seen watching homes in the Lenadoon area.

Family escapes bomb attack

A Catholic family of four escaped injury after a loyalist pipe bomb was thrown through their kitchen window in the early hours of Monday 19 August.

The couple and their two teenage sons were asleep upstairs in their Piers Park home in Carrickfergus, County Antrim, when they were woken by a large explosion downstairs.

The kitchen was filled with smoke and debris and a water pipe also burst, flooding the room and hallway. The family had only been in this home for a month.

This is the latest sectarian attack the family has endured. They were previously targeted in July 1998, when a pipe bomb hit the outside of a window frame and landed in the garden. Loyalist intimidation has forced the family to move from two other houses in the predominately loyalist town.

This was the second sectarian attack in the area in recent days; two mobile classrooms were destroyed in a loyalist arson attack on a Catholic primary school in Whitehead.

Councillor receives death threat

On Wednesday night, 14 August, Clogher Valley Sinn Féin Councillor Sean McGuigan was given a written message from the PSNI in Dungannon which read:

"Intelligence indicates that loyalist paramilitaries may be in possession of your details, believing you to be a republican activist. It is assessed that these details may be used to mount an attack against you at some stage in the future."

The PSNI refused to disclose the nature or the source of these threats. Similarly when McGuigan queried whether his position on the Council highlighting the collusion between the police and loyalists had anything to do with the threat, it was met with silence.

"Shortly afterwards, I was contacted by seven other people who had received similar threats," said McGuigan. "I wonder which section of military intelligence has leaked this information. No doubt now that some nationalists are in direct contact with these same forces through the newly formed District Policing Partnerships, they will be able to provide us with answers, not only to the eight people threatened but also to the countless others who have already been placed in this position."

Unparalleled military presence in Mid-Tyrone

Heavy British military activity throughout areas of Mid-Tyrone has been highlighted by Mid-Tyrone Sinn Féin Councillors Seán Clarke and Damien Curran.

In a joint statement, the representatives of the affected areas said that the levels of British military activity witnessed in the last fortnight are the worst experienced since well before the cessations. "Local people are demanding that the intrusive, disruptive and abusive presence of this alien military force ends immediately," they said.

"British soldiers have been patrolling and mounting road blocks throughout the Greencastle, Carrickmore and Creggan areas. Local people are being constantly stopped, questioned and verbally abused. Helicopter activity has been incessant throughout this period, with low flying aircraft frightening livestock on farms. A large force, numbering more than 50 British soldiers, 'dug-in' at an area near Creggan Community Centre on Tuesday 13 August, and only vacated the area on Sunday morning, 19 August.

"Since Sunday, the massive British military presence has continuing unabated and the anger of local people is increasing by the day."

The councillors have questioned whether this activity is designed to provoke the local population or if the British Army is now using this area of Tyrone as some kind of training ground and the local population as guineapigs.

"It is ironic," they observed, "that this area, which has been completely peaceful since the cessations, is now being subjected to such an oppressive British military presence, at a time when loyalist paramilitaries are continuing to target isolated nationalist communities throughout the Six Counties with impunity. Whose agenda is being played out here?"



Malcolm X speaks to North Belfast


Mike Alewitz of the American based Labour Art and Mural Project has travelled the world bringing his street paintings of working class issues to countries as diverse as Iraq and Germany. Inspired by the images of Holy Cross, this summer Mike came to North Belfast to share his visual message of international solidarity and struggle with the people of Ardoyne.

As a political muralist Mike has a formidable reputation both within the USA and internationally. His most famous work, the Pathfinder mural in New York, reproduced on numerous posters and book covers, has become an image instantly recognisable in many countries throughout the world.

Denied expression in most mainstream mediums, Mike sees mural art as an important mechanism through which working people can address political and economic marginalisation.

"It's working people talking to the world," says Mike. The main focus of Mike's art has been the depiction of labour issues and union struggles but for North Belfast he chose Malcolm X as his theme for the mural.

"Malcolm X was the greatest voice of Black nationalism," says Mike, "but he was also an internationalist. He understood the interconnection between nationalism and internationalism. I hope that the imagery will encourage people to read Malcolm X not just as an American leader but as a World leader."

But Mike has already been pleasantly surprised by how many ordinary people in North Belfast recognise the image. "People here already know who Malcolm X is," says Mike, "I guess that's a reflection of the level of politicisation within these communities."

The mural also includes images of Holy Cross and Little Rock. "Television footage of the children of Holy Cross being attacked as they made their way to school immediately reminded me of the image of children being confronted by an angry mob in Arkansaw," says Mike.

US President George Bush and British PM Tony Blair are also included in the mural as a couple of poodles. "I would like to take the opportunity to denounce the criminal activities of the US and Israeli government against the people of Palestine," says Mike.

Despite being sympathetic to the struggle for freedom and justice in the north of Ireland, this is the first time Mike has actually visited here to witness the ongoing problems of ordinary communities like Ardoyne.

"I didn't realise the level of segregation and victimisation," says Mike, "or the ongoing level of violence being endured by people within this community."

Mike Alewitz is travelling home from Belfast this week but his mural will ensure that while he may have gone, he will not be forgotten. And he promises to visit again.


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
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