North Belfast families forced out
Attacks on Catholic families living in Deerpark Road have
continued unabated for the last five years but in recent weeks
sporadic attacks have been escalated into a campaign of
intimidation designed to systematically drive Catholics out of
A bungalow at a corner leading into the loyalist Glenbryn
estate was first to be targeted. In a number of nightly
attacks the home of Sarah Barkley (28) and her two young
children was targeted by a loyalist mob of around 30 men, some
of whom wore masks.
During over a dozen loyalist attacks on the bungalow since
January, the family repeatedly telephone the PSNI and asked
"Whenever I telephoned the police said they were too busy and
would send someone when they could. One night, three men were
standing in my garden smashing my windows and trying to get
into the house. I telephoned 999 but the PSNI never bothered
to come out," said Sarah.
The PSNI advised the family to keep a rope upstairs in case
the house was petrol bombed and they needed to escape the fire
by climbing out of a bedroom window. During a particularly
gruesome attack, the family's pet cat was mutilated and left
to die outside their front door. Sarah's seven-year-old
daughter discovered the dead animal.
After repeated attacks and the failure of the PSNI to afford
them any meaningful protection, Sarah and her two young
daughters were forced to flee from their home. Their escape
was made possible after the Housing Executive to purchase
their home under a special scheme.
Sarah Barkley described her three years in Deerpark Road as
the "worst years of my life" and expressed her fears for the
Catholic families still living in the street.
"I feel really bad for the Catholics who are still left here
because they know they are going to be attacked until they
give up and leave. The worst thing is that no one in authority
seems to care," she told the media.
Since the Barkley family has been force to leave, Glenbryn
loyalists have targeted four other Catholic houses. On Friday
night, about 30 loyalists gathered outside Catholic homes,
smashing windows, daubing walls with sectarian graffiti and
threatening to return with petrol and pipe bombs.
Amongst the mob was the female partner of a prominent
loyalist. The woman was seen smashing the windscreen of any
vehicle parked outside a Catholic home.
The attack came just over a week after a vicious sectarian
attack on three Catholic teenagers. The loyalist gang
fractured one boy's arm and left another with puncture holes
in his chest and back. The third escaped and raised the alarm.
In the latest incident a loyalist mob entered Deerpark Road at
about 9.30pm on the night of Tuesday 2 September and attacked
the home of a Catholic woman. The house was one of four that
had been attacked just days before.
Loyalist slogans were painted on the house and bricks, bottles
and golf balls were thrown through the windows during the
Local politicians and clergy have described the unionist
attacks as part of a campaign to drive Catholics out of the
street. North Belfast priest Fr Aiden Troy supported a call by
Fr Hugh Kennedy for more protection for nationalist families
living on the edge of loyalist estates.
Fr Kennedy accused loyalists of orchestrating a systematic
campaign to remove Catholic families from Deerpark Road, while
Fr Troy said people were being driven from their homes "for no
other reason than their religion.
"These families need protection and they need it now," said
The attacks followed the renewed initimidation of pupils at
Holy Cross Girls' Primary School.
Three years ago the Catholic primary school, which
accommodates pupils as young as four years of age, became the
target of a vicious loyalist campaign of violent intimidation,
during which a loyalist mob threw pipe bombs, bricks and
bottles at children and parents as they attempted to walk to
On Monday morning, a device was discovered shortly before
parents and their children were due to arrive at the school.
For the many four- and five-year-old children, it was not only
the first day of term but also their first day at school.
A PNSI cordon confronted parents and children arriving to walk
the short distance along Ardoyne Road to the school. For some
older children who had lived through the trauma of the
loyalist blockade, the renewal of loyalist violence proved too
much. Tearful scenes ensued as a few children became fearful
and pleaded to go home. Many families abandoned any attempt to
get their children to school.
With access to the school blocked, other parents were forced
to take their children by bus to nearby St Gabriel's school,
from where the pupils made their way across grass pitches to
the back of Holy Cross school.
Attempts by the teachers and staff to provide as normal a
school day as possible for their pupils was further thwarted
after they were informed that two other devices might have
been planted on the school premises.
In a telephone call to a local radio station, the UDA, using
the cover name Red Hand Defenders, admitted planting the bomb
at the school gates and claimed that there were two more. Holy
Cross children were immediately evacuated to St Gabriel's
before being allowed home. No further devices were discovered.
GAA SUPPORTERS ATTACKED
An Armagh family had a lucky escape when their car was
attacked with stones by loyalists on Sunday evening last as
they returned from watching their team win the All-Ireland
football semi-final against Donegal in Dublin.
The family from Lurgan were stopped at traffic lights in the
Malcolm Road area of the town when their car was stoned by a
group of loyalists.
The woman, who does not wish to be named, was in the car with
her six-year-old son, her parents and her sister.
"My son was petrified," she said. "He kept asking me why
threw stones at us. I told him I didn't know. He asked if they
were they from a different county, I told him they were from
the same county then he wanted to know why they did not
support their county like everyone else. All I could say was I
The woman said she had stopped before reaching Banbridge and
removed orange and white flags from her car in the hope of
evading any attention, but all to no benefit.
A number of other cars, many carrying families with young
children, were also damaged in the sectarian onslaught.
Sinn Fein's former Upper Bann representative Dara O'Hagan
accused loyalists of trying to inflict serious injury on GAA
fans travelling home to Lurgan.
O'Hagan said that the attacks were orchestrated as the
perpetrators know that supporters returning to Lurgan must
travel through the Malcolm Road area.
O'Hagan said the silence from unionist political and community
leaders in relation to such attacks hasn't gone unnoticed by
"I would challenge those with influence in the unionist
community to condemn these attacks and then to proceed to use
their influence in a manner that will ensure there will be no
repeat of the bitter display of sectarianism directed at GAA
fans in Lurgan on Sunday," she said.