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31 October 2002 Edition

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South Antrim sectarian hotbed

Sinn Féin urges action

A dossier detailing unionist paramilitary violence in the south Antrim area has been presented to NIO Security Minister Jane Kennedy. A delegation headed by local Sinn Féin councillor Martin Meehan and including party colleagues, local community workers and victim representatives, travelled to Stormont last Monday.

Meehan told the British minister that it was clear that unionist paramilitaries, namely the LVF and UDA, were at the forefront of intimidation of Catholics in south Antrim and demanded immediate action.

Meehan also raised the issue of crown forces collusion in the current wave of unionist paramilitary violence in the Antrim area. 5.56mm bullets, used by the British Army issue SA80 rifle, were discovered amongst a substantial unionist paramilitary weapons find in the Rathcoole estate last week.

The weapons included home made submachine guns, a shotgun, machine pistols and at least two Derringer pistols. There was also a box of 9mm bullets with markings from the Israeli Military Industries, pipe bombs and boobytrap devices.

Within the last two years, there have been six sectarian killings in the south Antrim area.

In December 2000, unionist paramilitaries murdered Catholic builder Gary Moore in Newtownabbey while he was working on a site.
Father of two Trevor Lowry was kicked to death in the mistaken belief that he was a Catholic in April 2001.
19-year-old Ciaran Cummings was shot dead as he waited for a lift to work. At the time David Trimble denied unionist paramilitaries had carried out the killing and attempted to dismiss the death as drug related.
18-year-old Gavin Brett was gunned down in the mistaken belief he was a Catholic outside St Enda's GAA club on July 2001.
This year, Catholic postal worker Daniel McColgan was shot dead in January and Gerard Lawlor in July.
More recently, a 15-year-old Catholic boy suffered life threatening head injuries when a sectarian gang in Antrim attacked him with a hatchet in August.

The brutal attack was the culmination of months of violence emanating from a 40-strong gang of Ulster Young Militants, a wing of the UDA, operating out of the predominantly unionist Stiles estate.

"They have been creating havoc in Antrim for months," said Meehan, "this gang is something between the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan."

A local Catholic High School, St Malachy's, has been the focus of sustained unionist paramilitary violence. In a scenario similar to that of Holy Cross, pupils and parents have repeatedly faced mass loyalist intimidation during the journey to and from school. A number of individual parents have received death threats and a number of pupils attacked.

Last month, over 150 residents attended a 'reclaim the streets' protest close the scene of the hatchet attack that left a Catholic teenager with permanent brain damage. The residents called for an end to the campaign of hate against Catholics in Antrim.

Meanwhile, ongoing sectarian attacks have forced a mass exodus of Catholic families from their homes in the Antrim area. According to official reports, over 60 families have fled their homes and are currently seeking accommodation elsewhere.

"The unionist paramilitaries are well known, the people who are orchestrating these attacks are known to everyone in south Antrim and further afield," said Meehan. "The nationalist community is calling for these matters to be urgently addressed."

A spokesperson for the NIO described the meeting as "constructive" and said the minister would be examining a number of issues raised.

Pair charged with attempted murder

Two men appeared at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Saturday 26 October charged with the attempted murder of 29-year-old Catholic Gerard McRandle from Larne, who was left fighting for his life after a sectarian assault in the East Antrim town in the early hours of Wednesday 23 October.

24-year-old John Thomas Maloney from Linn Road in Larne and 31-year-old William Robinson from Greenland Parade in the town were both remanded in custody.

McRandle was attacked and badly beaten by at least two loyalists who repeatedly kicked him in the head as he returned home to his Gardenmore flat in Larne after having a drink with his mother in Dan Campbell's bar, which is just 300 yards from his home. The young Catholic man remains in a seriously ill condition in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

Two women and a man were charged on Friday 25 October with withholding information about the sectarian attack.

Nationalists in the loyalist town have called for extra security in Larne following this latest sectarian incident.

In July in Larne, a 16-year-old Catholic was attacked by loyalists wielding golf clubs and iron bars, leaving him with a compound fracture of the skull.

Meanwhile, An Phoblacht has learned that Maloney served a prison sentence in Hydebank Young Offenders centre for the killing of a loyalist bandsman a number of years ago in a row over drugs. It is thought the bandsman had passed on information to the RUC about a UDA drugs operation and was killed.

Shots fired in UVF show of strength

Three guns and a quantity of ammunition which were used by a UVF gang in a show of strength in the loyalist town of Ballyclare in East Antrim were uncovered by a PSNI patrol during a search of hedges near the town.

A number of shots were fired during the armed display on Friday night 25 October.

A sub machinegun and bullets were found in a holdall hidden in a hedge in the Grange Drive area of the town.

On Saturday 26 October, a number of pipe bombs were discovered in a hedgerow near Antrim Technical College in Muckamore.

On Sunday 27 October members of the PSNI found a loaded handgun at the rear of houses in the Derryhill area of the Rathcoole estate on the outskirts of North Belfast. The find comes in the same week as an arsenal of UDA weapons were found in a house on the same estate.

South Antrim Sinn Féin councillor Martin Meehan has told An Phoblacht, "the raids are two years too late and coincide with a meeting being held at Stormont of a delegation of South Antrim Sinn Fein members and the British security minister Jane Kennedy.

"Nationalists are not convinced that these raids by the PSNI are designed to end the two-year long violent unionist pogroms against nationalists in South Antrim," said Meehan. "They see the raids as mere window dressing."

Loyalists target Catholic football team

Concerned parents of an Antrim soccer team are threatening to take their children out of the Ballymena Youth League after loyalist threats.

Members of the team, from the Rathenraw estate in Antrim Town, were abused by loyalists after a match at the Antrim Forum earlier this month and were warned to "watch your backs".

The children from the under-16 squad say they are treating the death threats "very seriously", while one of their parents vowed to report the sectarian incident to the League officials and to my local councillor. "I am expecting a full assurance from the League's administrators that there will be no recurrence," said the parent, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Many of the youngsters are considering leaving the team after this latest incident. "We were told to watch our backs from now on no matter where we play in the League. We cannot understand why anyone would issue death threats against us," said one of the players.

Sinn Féin councillor Martin McManus branded the threats as outrageous and said he will be pushing for a full investigation at the next Antrim council meeting.

"I am confident that I can obtain the cross party support and assistance from all the councillors at Antrim Borough Council for an investigation," he said.

This is not the first time the Antrim Forum has been the focus for sectarianism. Earlier this year, nationalist teenagers were attacked by loyalists at the playing fields. At the time, Antrim Council stressed they were taking steps to ensure such sectarian attacks would never happen again.

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