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17 April 2003 Edition

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Antrim family escape death

An Antrim mother and her three young children aged 1,2,and 3 years old were lucky to be alive after an arson attack on their home in the Rathenraw estate in the early hurs of Wednesday morning, 9 April.

Three petrol bombs were thrown at the upstairs windows of the house, breaking one and causing scorch damage to another.

Locals who witnessed the attack said four men were involved. Three attacked the house while the fourth drove the blue-coloured getaway car that sped off into the Stiles area before being abandoned in the Parkhall estate.

Sinn Féin councillor for South Antrim Martin Meehan said the family was lucky to be alive. "Only their windows are double glassed we could have been looking at another Quinn family tragedy," he said.

This is the latest sectarian attack directed against nationalists in Antrim. On Monday 7 April, schoolchildren travelling home from school on a bus from St Malachy's High School were attacked by a gang of loyalists.

Also two weeks ago, a Catholic man who works in the Newpark Industrial Estate suffered head and leg injuries after he was attacked by members of the UVF.

Members of the 16-strong gang visited the company in the morning of Monday 31 March and warned all Catholic employees not to return to work or risk being killed.

The workers ignored the threats but the Catholic worker attacked was the last to leave the factory after his shift. The loyalist gang emerged from a white transit van carrying baseball bats to assault him.

Schoolchildren threatened

Meanwhile pupils from St Malachy's High School in Antrim were accosted by a loyalist youth brandishing a gun outside the school on Thursday 10 April

The youth fired shots at a passing milk lorry before the PSNI arrived at the scene and restrained him. The weapon is believed to have been an air pistol.

Sinn Féin assembly candidate for South Antrim, Martin Meehan, hit out at what he calls reckless sectarian attacks on schoolchildren.

"Pupils from St Malachy's are running a loyalist gauntlet almost every day now, and it's only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed in these sectarian attacks," he warned.

Meehan was speaking after a meeting with parents and school authorities over the continued attacks on children coming and going to school.

"The entire community wants an immediate end to the violent unionist pogroms in South Antrim, and I wholeheartedly urge all people of goodwill to enter into urgent and immediate dialogue to bring these attacks to a stop," said Meehan.

UDA pipe bomb at primary school

Unionist paramilitaries left a crude pipe bomb outside Mercy Primary School in north Belfast last week. The Catholic school is attended by girls ranging in age from four to eleven.

The device was discovered just before 3pm on Thursday 10 April by a parent who had come to collect his child. The PSNI cordoned off the area and the British Army later removed the device.

Sinn Féin's Margaret McClenaghan said the device had been left where any child could have found it and picked it up. "We are extremely lucky that we are not dealing with the death of a child," she warned. McClenaghan said she was concerned that the UDA has returned to targeting Catholic schools.

Mercy Primary is located on the Crumlin Road, very near Holy Cross Girls School, which became the reluctant focus of international attention when its young students and their families endured a horrendous 12-week unionist "blockade" two years ago.

During that UDA orchestrated 'protest', young girls and their parents were threatened, abused and attacked with everything from blast bombs to dog faeces.

At the beginning of this year, a pipe bomb was found attached to the front gates of Holy Cross. The UDA, through its cover group the Red Hand Defenders, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Loyalist bomb made safe in Toomebridge

Loyalists bombers targeted the Ancient Order of Hibernians hall in Toomebridge, County Antrim at the weekend. The bomb, which was in a gas cylinder, was attached to a fuel tank in the grounds of the Gortgill AOH club on the Roghery Road on Sunday 13 April.

Sinn Féin Mid Ulster assembly member John Kelly questioned the motive behind an attack on a building used for cross-community work. "To plant a device of this nature in such a careless, haphazard way endangers the lives of members of the whole community," he said.

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