Attacks ongoing as marching season begins
Anxiety is growing within nationalist communities throughout the
Six Counties as unionist paramilitaries step up their campaign of
sectarian violence and intimidation.
Over the course of the last number of weeks, there has been a
barrage of sectarian attacks leading up to the marching season of
the Protestant marching orders and there are concerns that the
increase in activity by their loyalist supporters could mean
nationalists are in for a long, violent summer.
Just prior to the Easter holiday weekend, the Ulster Political
Research Group, which represents the unionist paramilitary UDA,
issued a statement calling for calm in Belfast interface areas
over Easter. It was, the public was told, an attempt to avert
"The UPRG will be taking the necessary steps to ensure as much as
possible that no trouble will flare up in loyalist areas and
would hope republicans would reciprocate," read the statement.
But nationalists were not particularly optimistic about the
appeal, knowing only too well that UDA's intention are best
judged by their actions on the ground. Sure enough, the ink had
barely dried on the UPRG statement when sectarian attacks on
nationalists resumed unabated.
On Thursday 17 April, the windows of a Catholic home along the
Crumlin Road in North Belfast were smashed, and several others
also came under attack when unionist youths began throwing stones
around 8pm. The Housing Executive has confirmed it is to meet
with several Catholics living in the area to discuss plans to
protect their houses from future attacks.
On Good Friday - more than 100 people were involved in a standoff
on the Limestone Road.
Trouble flared around 9.45pm after a confrontation in nearby
Alexander Park. Unionist paramilitaries then set off a "siren"
the Tigers Bay area, summoning more loyalists onto the street.
The mob then attempted to enter the nationalist Newington area
and clashes with nationalist residents ensued.
A Catholic family had a lucky escape when a pipe bomb was thrown
into the back of their Limestone Road home. The device was one of
a number of devices thrown at houses in the area. Remnants of the
weapon were found by local residents the next day.
As well as the pipe bomb, unionists threw bricks, bottles, and
fireworks during more than an hour of intense and sustained
violence. The PSNI sat nearby in several Land Rovers but did not
move in until the British Army had arrived to back them up.
"The UDA was behind this," said Sinn Fein's Gerard Brophy
angrily, "and I'm not impressed at all with their appeal for
calm. It's funny that whenever they decide to stop trouble, the
interface areas are quiet. That proves they are responsible."
Local residents say that every night of the previous week, there
had been small incursions by unionist paramilitaries, from
incidents of stone throwing to the more sinister appearance of
masked men on the fringes of the road.
On Easter Saturday, two Twinbrook youths were threatened by
loyalists as they waited to start work at their place of
employment on Boucher Road.
James Allen, who is 18, and his 16-year-old cousin Daniel
Kennedy, were outside the car showroom where they work part-time
around 8.45am on Saturday morning, when two cars began to drive
back and forth beside them.
James says he and Daniel knew immediately that something was
"Each car contained a man and a woman. The men were in their
mid-30s. They reversed alongside us and the men got out. They
asked us where we were from and started edging towards us. Daniel
ran and one of them chased him. He fell and cut himself and I
pulled a ligament in my left hand.
"It was a miracle we got away. I dread to think what would have
happened if we hadn't."
James says the cars finally drove off in the direction of the
unionist Village estate. Both young men have said they will now
have to leave their jobs.
"It is not worth the risk," said James simply.
In another incident, a Coleraine man barely escaped with his life
after a petrol bomb attack took place at his home in the early
hours of Sunday morning.
The man awoke after hearing a noise and found his bed in flames.
He was discovered by firefighters after he collapsed in the
hallway of his flat on Glebe Avenue, and was taken to hospital
suffering from smoke inhalation.
The attack took place around 12.50am on 20 April. The PSNI
confirmed they found the remains of a petrol bomb inside the
house, but claim they have not determined if the attack was
sectarian. However, the same area has fallen victim to a
sectarian attacks in the past.
There was also an arson attack on the Rathmore Grammer School
near Dunmurry, South Belfast, on the weekend.
It was the seventh such attack in the past seven years and the
second attack on the school since it erected security fencing.
Flammable liquid was poured through a window broken by the
arsonists and thousands of pounds damage was caused to the
These incidents, however, are only the latest in the ongoing
sectarian campaign being waged by unionist paramilitaries.
On noon on Saturday, 12 April, a group of nationalist young
people between eight and 20 years of age were attacked by a gang
of unionist paramilitaries at the bottom of Ligoniel Road in
The two young men and four young women were attacked and beaten
with large sticks as they walked through the carpark of a
pensioner's fold. One of the boys later received staples to his
head. One of the girls sustained bad bruising to her legs.
Two cars were also attacked in the area as they stopped at a set
of lights on the Friday night before, and a further three
vehicles were later targeted on the same day the beating took
Meanwhile, in the Longlands area of north Belfast, a school bus
carrying Catholic students home from school was attacked with
bricks by two female unionist youths as it passed the White City
The attack took place around 3.30pm on Tuesday 15 April as the
vehicle stopped to allow students to disembark. Two girls from
Little Flower Secondary School on the Antrim Road were badly
shaken when a brick shattered the window of their bus, striking
one on the back.
Sinn Fein's Briege Meehan said she "utterly condemned" the attack
and added she hoped it did not signal a return to violence in the
There have been numerous attacks on nationalists and their
children in recent weeks.
There was also a serious abduction bid by unionist paramilitaries
in the Duncairn Gardens area of north Belfast. The incident took
place on Saturday 29 March, when a gang of four men attacked a
young Catholic and tried to drag him into a waiting car.
The 20-year-old man had been walking alone along the Antrim Road
in the early hours of the morning when a group of men jumped out
of a blue Ford Escort at the top of Duncairn Gardens and attacked
him. One of them struck the victim several times on the head and
body with a hammer.
The young man managed to break free and ran down Atlantic Avenue
to escape, pursued by the gang.
The youth was later treated in hospital for head injuries. His
father says he has been too frightened to leave the house alone
since the brutal attack.
"He was lucky to escape. It was terrifying for him. This is
terrible; it's like something out of the 1970's when the Shankill
Butchers were killing people. My son could have ended up dead if
these thugs had got their way."
The PSNI says it has not established a motive for the attack, but
there is little doubt that unionist paramilitaries are behind the
incident and that the PSNI was well aware of their presense in
Sinn Fein's Gerard Brophy says he had received reports of a
suspect vehicle hanging about the nationalist Antrim
Road/Duncairn area more than three days prior to the attack.
"They chased a young fellow down the Antrim Road the Wednesday
night before this." says Brophy, "It was the same car, the same
description of the occupants. The young fellow they were after
that time managed to escape into an entry, but over the next few
days I received further calls from residents expressing their
fears and concerns about a suspicious vehicle. Each time the
report was the same - a car containing several men cruising about
and attempting to stop or intercept people.
"When the PSNI came to interview the young man who was attacked
with the hammer, they were given a desciption of the car and its
occupants. It was then that the PSNI admitted to the young man's
father that they had been trying to intercept this same vehicle
for two days prior to the attack.
"What does it say about the level of protection the PSNI are
providing to nationalists if they knew about this vehicle days in
advance and yet this car was still able to go in and out of this
Brophy repeated his warning for Catholics in the area to be