30 January 2003 Edition
See No Evil, Speak No Evil...
BY áINE Ní BHRIAN
Nationalist homes on the Limestone Road in North Belfast were attacked by unionists this week, and although the attacks took place in full view of nearby CCTV cameras, the PSNI is unable to make up its mind whether the cameras were on or off at the time.
The attacks have come over several nights and are made even more sinister by the fact that they have been conducted by adult males as opposed to teens. Sinn Féin Councillor Gerard Brophy blamed unionists from the Tiger's Bay area for attempting to re-ignite tensions in the area.
"This has been going on since Tuesday night, 21 January," said Brophy. "There were a dozen or more petrol bombs thrown then but fortunately none of them hit houses. This is being orchestrated by unionist paramilitaries who are determined to raise tensions. They're coming out wearing balaclavas and it is obvious to us that the petrol bombs have been prepared in advance."
On the weekend, two pensioners were forced to abandon their car and run for safety when unionists showered the vehicle with bricks. The two were uninjured but very badly shaken.
On Monday, 28 January, a brick was thrown through the living room window of a nationalist home on the Limestone Road. The attack came at 7am and is the sixth attack on the same house in less than two years.
"This time it was only a brick," says Cliodhna Kennedy of the attack on her home, "but last year they fired six shots through the front door and before that they tried to get into the house by breaking down the door with a hatchet."
The Kennedy family, like many in the area, have been subjected to an endless campaign of loyalist intimidation, but when they asked the PSNI for CCTV footage of the attack, they were informed the cameras had not been on at the time.
"When the police came out we asked the officer in charge whether they could identify the attackers on the four CCTV cameras just yards away from our home. But he told us that would not be possible as the cameras had not been switched on yesterday morning.
"We were under the impression that the cameras were supposed to be operating 24 hours a day and are left asking ourselves why they had been installed in the first place if they are not there to stop sectarian attacks."
However, a PSNI spokesman later denied the CCTV cameras had been turned off, saying, "CCTV cameras monitor the general area in which they are situated on a 24-hour basis".
He went on to say that footage from the Limestone Road cameras was being examined to discover if the attackers could be identified and denied that the officer in charge could have told the Kennedy family that the cameras were not operating.
Cliodhna Kennedy knows what she was told, and the family have instructed their solicitor to force the PSNI to hand over the tapes.
"If the cameras were working then good, because they must have picked up the people who were responsible for the attack on our home," she said. "I know what the policeman told us and I want to know why one policeman is saying the cameras weren't on and another is saying they were."
"All we are asking is that our home is properly protected and if these cameras are not on, we want to know why."
Republicans have been sceptical about the erection of the cameras from the outset, arguing that they were being used to spy on the nationalist population and not to protect Catholics and their homes from sectarian attacks. There were complaints that the cameras were placed in such a way as to view the goings on in nationalist areas, while unionist areas were left unmonitored.
Gerard Brophy has always argued that the money spent on the cameras would have been better spent on the communities involved and sees the recent attacks as an indication that unionist paramilitaries are preparing for a renewed sectarian campaign against nationalists.
"Every time a unionist feud has ended, it has led to an increase in the intimidation and killing of Catholics," he pointed out.
Meanwhile, the home of a Catholic couple with two young children suffered a petrol bomb attack to their home in Dunmurry on Monday night.
Two devices were hurled at the home at 10:45 pm and both the front door and garage of the home sustained damage. The attack was made more deadly by the fact that the petrol bombs had been thrown at both the front and rear entrances of the home at the same time, which potentially could have left the young family trapped inside. The couple's car also had its rear window shattered with a brick and there was an attempt made to set it alight.
This is the second attack the family has endured. At the start of December, the father's business was attacked and burned by arsonists. His coffee shop is in the midst of several cross-community businesses on the Stewartstown Road, which are part of an effort to improve relationships and trade benefiting both communities. The shop sustained extensive fire damage.
The family has only lived in their Ashley Park estate home for the past month, and are worried they may now be forced to leave.
Sinn Féin's Paul Butler said there has been an increase in sectarian attacks in Dunmurray.
"This is part of an ongoing sectarian campaign against Catholics by unionist paramilitaries in the Dunmurray area, with yet another young Catholic family being attacked in their home."
"Incidents like this all point to the unionist failure to engage republicans and sort out the political process. Their refusal has created a vaccum now being filled by the kind of people who carried out this attack."
Sinn Féin has called on the MP for the area, the UUP's Jeffery Donaldson, to sit down with its representatives and discuss ways to bring an end to sectarian attacks in the Lagan Valley area.
"Donaldson's hardline stance on the peace process is encouraging these sorts of attacks," says Butler. "If he would meet with us it would send a strong, clear message that all the political representatives are united and want to bring an end to the ongoing unionist campaign. It would help bring about a peaceful society and people would be able to live free from sectarian harrassment."
Loyalist hate graffiti in Antrim
Antrim Sinn Féin Councillor Martin McManus is accusing "loyalist thugs" of upping the ante after graffiti threatening nationalist residents of the Stiles and Rathenraw estates in Antrim town appeared over the last week.
The painted slogans range from 'Kill all Taigs' to 'watch your back'. The names of local nationalists were written up alongside these threats. McManus is blaming the Stiles Young Defenders (SYD) and the UDA's youth wing, the UYM, of painting the graffiti.
The loyalists also wrote graffiti 'Up the hatchet team', glorifying the attack on Catholic teenager Michael Craig, who was attacked by a loyalist gang wielding a hatchet last August. The 15-year-old was almost killed in the attack.
People living in the Stiles and Rathenraw areas are demanding that Antrim Borough Council and all other relevant agencies take immediate measures to remove the sectarian threats.
"Too often, these hate slogans are left until members of the community or members of the families being threatened remove them themselves," said McManus.
"I have been a target of hate for the 'artists' also and I understand how people feel when their name appears on a wall next to a death threat."
The Sinn Féin councillor is now calling on all local political leaders to be "more vocal concerning this graffiti in Antrim Town."
Meanwhile, a young Catholic mother of two, Leeann Delaney, is accusing the UVF of driving her from her home in the Greystone estate in Antrim.
The young mother said that two men arrived at her house last week looking for her boyfriend's brother. When Leeann told the intruders that the man didn't live with her, she was told "to get out".
Sinn Féin's Martin Meehan has criticised unionist politicians for "glossing over" the plight of Catholics living in Antrim.
Child fan injured in sectarian bus attack
Nine-year-old Nathan Tobin sustained injuries to his eye, nose and cheek after loyalists attacked a bus in which Cliftonville fans were travelling home from after an Irish League match against Portadown on Tuesday 21 January.
The North Belfast child was showered with glass after two large granite rocks were thrown through the window of the coach. A number of other supporters received minor injuries during the sectarian attack on the Armagh Road.
Nathan's father Des said his young son got a piece of glass in his right eye, received a cut to the bridge of his nose and scratches to his face.
"He didn't say anything as he was in shock. I asked him if he was all right and all he kept saying was I don't know, I don't know," said Des.
The manager of Cliftonville's website said that although PSNI Land Rovers had escorted their bus to and from the ground, extra security should be put in place at Portadown's ground in the future.
A letter about sectarian attacks on Cliftonville supporters near Shamrock Park will be sent to the PSNI, soccer authorities and the Six-County Sports Council, said Cliftonville member Liam Murray.