Sectarian Attacks

April 2000


Introduction:

In our document on Rosemary Nelson, we included an appendix that listed all known loyalist attacks from 1 January 1999 through 30 April 1999. Given the nature of the document the list focused on loyalist attacks. Since that time, we have continued to document attacks across the North, expanding our remit to include all attacks that might be considered sectarian (sometimes, however, the motives aren’t always clear.)

The following list of sectarian attacks is from 1 April 2000 through to April 30 2000. Should any incidents have inadvertently been left off the list please contact us. The issue of inclusion/exclusion is very problematic. For instance this document does not include punishment beatings 'within' a community, attacks by the security forces on civilians or by civilians on the security forces or murders where the perpetrators are believed to be from the same community and the motive is not thought to have been sectarian. We have also not included violent incidents connected to feuding within loyalism.

We will update this list each month.

1 April In a case which has chilling echoes of the circumstances surrounding Robert Hamill’s murder, a terrified Larne woman told how officers in an RUC Land Rover ignored her pleas for help and drove off, leaving her and her daughter at the mercy of a 50 strong loyalist mob. The woman who had suffered a brutal beating in a sectarian attack five months ago, told how she and her daughter had left their house at 1:30 am to make a phone call from a nearby phone box. On their way to the box they were spotted by a gang of about fifty loyalists who started calling them "fenian bastards". When the two women ran to the nearby Land Rover and rapped on the window asking for help, the officers ignored them and drove off. They then ran to the phone box and dialled 999. At this stage some of the mob had reached them and a man had punched the mother in the face. Some time later an RUC car arrived and pulled them to safety.

Warning the RUC to take action before someone is killed by loyalist gangs, the SDLP’s Danny O’Connor said : " When you look at what happened to Robert Hamill in Portadown – are they going to let it happen in Larne?"

9 April According to a Sunday newspaper Drumcree Orangemen have warned PM Tony Blair that if this year’s parade down the Garvaghy Road isn’t allowed to go ahead, it would prove to be his ‘Bloody Sunday’. Veiled threats of violence if the march is not allowed to go ahead are repeated later on in the month.

15 April An Irish News article carries reports of renewed calls into the 1977 sectarian murder of Catholic RUC man Joe Campbell. The calls follow the libel victory of Channel Four filmmaker Sean McPhilemy against the Sunday Times. In his book The Committee, unavailable in Britain or in Ireland because of libel laws, McPhilemy reveals facts about the case which are corroborated by the Campbell family. RUC special branch sergeant Charlie McCormick stood trial for Campbell’s murder but was never convicted. He was sentenced to 20 years on other charges but was released on appeal in January 1984.

16 April 34 year-old Anthony McCartan was brutally beaten by a gang of loyalist men who set upon him as he walked up the Ormeau Road in Belfast, between the Markets and Donegall Pass. He was taken to hospital where he received 40 stitches.

17 April Two Catholic women who were subjected to sustained sectarian harassment while they were employed by the Ulster Bank’s Omagh branch in 1996 and 1997 have successfully sued the bank. In the case before the Fair Employment Tribunal in Belfast, the court heard that the intimidation of the two intensified after they complained to the personnel department and an investigation was carried out. "Lights were turned off when they were still at work, doors were closed on them, computers were switched off while they were working on them and the conversation dried up when they joined the company of others" said their solicitor. The harassment got worse during the Drumcree stand-off in 1996. Psychologists testified to the damage caused to the women’s confidence by the intimidation.

17 April Arsonists in the South Down town of Rathfriland threw a petrol bomb at the home of a Protestant family on Drumnascamp Road. No one was hurt. In an unconnected incident, arsonists started a fire in the local Orange hall. The attacks were condemned, both by local clergy, and by local politicians from right across the political spectrum.

18 April A feature in the Irish News about loyalists breaking through the peace line near Divis, in West Belfast, reported the Finn Square community being besieged by stone throwing youths. The attackers used stones from the site of the proposed Millennium Peace Park and attacked houses where the residents are mostly elderly or disabled. Councillors across the divide condemned the attack. The UUP’s Chris McGimpsey added that there was stoning "from both sides".

19 April Following assaults on young Protestants, as reported in last month’s report, unionist councillors in Derry have called for a response from nationalist leaders to help bring such attacks to an end. Voicing fears that one of the attacks might lead to a fatality, the DUP’s Gregory Campbell said that most of the attacks were carried out on young Protestants travelling to and from night spots in the city centre, which is on the west bank. The SDLP mayor, Pat Ramsey, said he would support any initiative to deter those responsible for such attacks.

23 April A Catholic man escaped injury in Lisnasharragh in Belfast after a petrol bomb was thrown through a window into his front room at 4:30 am.

26 April Coleraine SDLP councillor and MLA John Dallat has called for an end to ‘political apartheid’ in local politics. In sharp contrast to Derry, where there is a nationalist majority and mayoral and other positions are rotated evenly among the political parties, unionist Coleraine continues to operate a ‘unionist only’ policy. This policy was effectively re-endorsed when DUP and some UUP councillors voted down a recommendation from the council’s policy and resources committee that a report on future civic positions be drawn up.

27 April As they attempted to cross the Ormeau Park in Belfast, two thirteen-year old Catholic school boys were dragged from their bicycles and beaten up by a 12 strong gang of grown loyalist men who had been shouting sectarian abuse at them. The two boys had thought that it would be safe enough to cross the park, usually regarded as a no-go area for nationalists, because they were on their bikes and it was broad daylight.

There has been sustained pressure on nationalist residents of nearby McClure street throughout the month of April from a gang of loyalists who have been smashing windows and hurling abusive and sectarian taunts at residents.

Calls to the RUC, to take effective steps to stop a similar situation on the fringes of the Garvaghy road in Portadown, have fallen on deaf ears. There has also been sporadic rioting between nationalists from the area and loyalists from adjacent areas. Petrol bombs have been thrown.

The same pattern is repeated in the Springfield area in Belfast, where hostile breaches of the peace line by loyalists have intensified this month to the point where a nationalist family have been intimidated out.

In Crumlin, outside of Belfast, a similar pattern is again emerging. Loyalist marches are on the increase, nationalist homes are being targeted by stone throwing youths and nationalist children are being beaten-up on their way to and from school.

28 April Sectarian tension on Derry’s Waterside has increased over the last couple of weeks. In one incident 10 year old child was chased by a gang of 20 year old loyalists. One nationalist resident, whose 5 year old came home in fear of "Protestants", said however that the finger of blame could not be pointed at either community.

28 April The city of New York has passed a resolution calling on the RUC to divulge "pertinent security information" to Sinn Fein councillors in the North of Ireland who have recently received death threats from unidentified loyalists. New York city controller Alan Hevesi said that death threats and hit lists had no place in a democracy.

30 April Dissident Loyalists have developed a new, more lethal type of pipe bomb, according to RUC sources. The first of these, believed to have been intended for an annual republican Easter commemoration, was discovered in the cemetery in Castlewellan in South Down earlier in the month.

LVF units opposed to the cease-fire are thought to be behind pipe bomb attacks on nationalist rallies, as in the case of the devices found on the route of the AOH march through Kilkeel on St Patrick’s day.



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