Sectarian Attacks

January 2001


Introduction:

The following list of sectarian incidents and attacks is from 01 through 31 January 2001. We rely on a number of sources for our information, but this is by no means comprehensive. If you find incidents that have been left off the list please contact us. A full dossier of sectarian attacks from January 1999 until December 2000 is also available.

  January 1, Monday
In Belfast a Catholic man returning alone from a New Year's party at 1.30 am was set upon by a gang of loyalists and assaulted. The man escaped after receiving injuries only to be pursued by two of his assailants. During the subsequent scuffle he grabbed a Glasgow Rangers hat off one of his assailants. As this happened an RUC vehicle drew up beside alongside. quot;Relieved to see assistance arrive, I told them I had just been attacked twice and showed them the hat I had grabbed as evidence," he said. He was then arrested. He was put in a cell at an RUC station and subjected to homophobic taunts as well as being called "Nelson Mandela". He was released at 5am and left to walk 4 miles home across Belfast. Before being released he was charged with disorderly behaviour, assaulting an RUC officer and resisting a constable in the due execution of his duty. (statement to PFC)

January 2, Tuesday
In Larne the windows of the Craigyhill home of a Catholic man were smashed. (CW)

January 3, Wednesday
Catholic single mother Helena McCambridge and her two sons, aged four and seven, escaped injury when five shots were fired into their home on the mixed Craigyhill estate in Larne. Ms McCambridge, who has been attacked several times in the last number of years, blamed the UDA for the attack. "I'm the only Catholic in this row of houses, but this is a quiet part of the estate and my neighbours are really good. When they heard the shots they were the first to ring the police." Ms McCambridge and her sons were in bed asleep when the attackers struck. One of the bullets smashed through the window frame of the living room before ricocheting off the wall just above the sofa. "People need to be able to sleep in their beds at night without worrying that it could be their last night on earth" said local SDLP assemblyman Danny O'Connor. The next day's Irish News editorial read: "Those who resort to sectarian violence must also know that they will face the full weight of the law". (IN, CW, RM, RUC)

January 4, Thursday
A family fled their Norwood Court home in Coleraine after shots were fired and a pipe bomb was thrown at the house. It was the third time the family had been targeted in five years. (IN, Mi)

January 5, Friday
An Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) hall on the Derry-Antrim border, which had been converted into a community centre, was attacked. The building near Toomebridge, which is used by groups from across the community, was vandalised and paint bombed with red and blue paint. It was the second attack in the past year. (IN)

According to one report a pipe bomb was thrown at a house in Likagh Drive, Magherafelt. (Mi)

It was reported that Catholic and Protestant youths from the Waterside area of Derry were being stalked by gangs "hunting in packs" in Derry city centre. One businessman, who did not wish to be named, said he had to offer shelter to two youths who were being chased through the Foyleside Shopping Centre by a gang of six other youths. The same businessman claimed that the city was ‘gripped by sectarianism and thuggery’. Waterside SDLP Councillor Phil Kelly said that teenagers from all areas of the Waterside are now fearful of entering the city centre because of what he labelled "gang turf wars." (DJ)

January 6, Saturday
Several families in the Kylemore Road area of Coleraine were evacuated after the RUC were called to examine a suspect device that had been left outside a house. The RUC later said the device turned out to be "an elaborate hoax". (IN)

The PFC received one of several reports involving the sectarian intimidation in Larne by members of the UYM (Ulster Young Militants - the youth wing of the UDA) of teenage girls, and of Protestant women in mixed marriages, being called "fenian loving whores". It is estimated that in Larne the UYM and UDA have a combined total of 350 young Protestant men aged 18-25(CW, PFC)

January 7, Sunday
People in the Kylemore Road area of Coleraine were again evacuated after a two-inch detonator was found close to where a device had been found the previous day. It is believed the intended target was a Catholic family. The family also discovered that a death threat had been left on their answering machine. "Sooner or later someone is going to be killed or maimed," said local SDLP MLA John Dallat. The RUC vowed to step up its presence. However, one local source told the PFC that there was no increased security force presence in the mixed Harpur's Hill estate where the UDA have a strong presence, and where the local UDP branch, along with those in four other areas, disaffiliated from the UDP leadership in protest against its support for the Good Friday Agreement (see below 23 January). "It is difficult to be everywhere at the right time" an RUC spokesman said. (IN, CW, PFC)

Two homes were pipe bombed in Ballymena according to one report. The RUC has told the PFC that the two attacks were not considered sectarian (Mi)

January 9, Tuesday
In an article published in the Derry Journal, East Derry SDLP Assemblyman John Dallat called on the unionist MP for the area, Willie Ross, to stop excusing sectarian attacks, or diminishing their seriousness by suggesting they were the result of criminal activity. He called on him to give a 'no ifs or buts' condemnation. Mr Dallat said he had logged 27 attacks involving guns, pipe bombs, or petrol bombs in the previous six months. (DJ)

A pipe bomb partially exploded in the kitchen of a Catholic family home in the Larne area. Another device exploded in the living room of a neighbouring house, where a mother and son narrowly escaped injury. (CW, RM, RUC)

In Ballymena, a Catholic mother and her two children escaped injury when a pipe bomb thrown at her house failed to explode. (IN, RUC, RM)

January 10, Wednesday
A Larne father of four vowed his family would not be driven from their home after a pipe bomb was thrown through their living room window. He asked if he could meet with representatives of the PUP and UDP to persuade them to speak to the perpetrators. (IN)

In a separate incident, a pipe bomb was thrown through the window of the house of a Catholic man in Laharna Avenue, also in the Larne town area. (IN)

The mother of a 16-year-old boy from Kilrea, Co Derry, who picked up a pipe bomb that had been thrown at their home, said she was baffled as to why her family had been targeted. Speaking after the attack on her Larchfield Gardens home she said: "We have been living here for 18 years and there has never been any bother with anybody. I am just saddened by the whole thing." The RUC said they believed the attack was sectarian. The device was made safe by a British army bomb disposal team. (IN, RUC)

11 January, Thursday
A Larne man branded the RUC "incompetent" after a pipe bomb was thrown through the kitchen window of his house. The bomb smashed through a rear window in his home, filling the kitchen with smoke, while his four children, aged between 11 and 21, were asleep upstairs. The man, a Catholic, said: "These attacks are going on in this town day after day and the police are doing nothing. No one seems to be arrested and charged with it. I have no faith in Larne RUC…Do we have to wait until someone is killed before action is taken?" (IN)

A Catholic priest from Larne denied that he had advised Catholic families targeted in sectarian attacks in Larne to leave the town. Canon Archie Molloy, of St MacNissis’s Church in the town, said he had simply supported the decision of some families to flee the town. (IN)

SDLP MLA Alban Maginness’ north Belfast office was badly damaged in a bomb attack. Four members of a scout group who rent the premises were in the building at the time but escaped uninjured. It is believed the device was put through the letterbox of the front door of the building. One witness said he saw two men leave the device just before 9.00pm. "They were going to light the device but every time they lit it, it went out. They were trying to scare us. Then they ran off and about 15 minutes later there was a bang." Two youths were seen running from the scene to the top of Duncairn Gardens, where they got into a blue Vauxhall Carlton, which was later found abandoned in the loyalist Shankill Road area. (IN, RM, BBC, RUC)

A Portadown mother of three claimed she was lucky to be alive after a gunman pointed a gun at her in the Nationalist tunnel area of the town. According to the woman, who was sitting in her car near the train station, a car skidded to a halt beside her and she believes they targeted her when they spotted her sitting in her car on her own. One of the four men in the other car pointed a gun at her and, she believes, attempted to shoot her. The woman believes that the gun jammed and that this saved her life. "I am 100% sure they were trying to kill me" she said. Independent nationalist councillor for the area, Joe Duffy, calling on nationalists in the area to be vigilant, said: "We expect these things to happen and we always have to be aware. This is an LVF stronghold and I wouldn’t be surprised at something like this." (RM)

The RUC in Ballymena carried out a number of searches of premises in the town following recent pipe bomb attacks in the area. (RUC)

The RUC revealed that it had logged 31 separate pipe bomb attacks since October. (IN, RUC)

12 January, Friday
It was reported that two Catholic families who were the victims of pipe bomb attacks in Larne earlier this month also had their cars damaged in an earlier attack. Both families had paint stripper poured over cars parked outside their homes causing thousands of pounds worth of damage. Commenting on the spate of sectarian attacks in the Co Antrim town, local SDLP MLA Danny O’Connor said: "It’s about time people in their beds in this town didn’t have to worry about whether they are going to be burned to death before they wake up in the morning." (IN)

It was reported that all but one of the UDA’s six brigades are now opposed to the peace process. The group has been accused of orchestrating the recent wave of sectarian attacks against Catholics across the north of Ireland. (IN)

A new survey reported a rise in perceived mistreatment of Catholics at marches and demonstrations. A poll, commissioned by the Police Authority for Northern Ireland revealed that 27% of people interviewed believed that Protestants are treated better than Catholics during such disputes. (IN)

It was reported that forensic tests were being carried out on two explosive devices, which were defused in separate incidents in County Antrim. One of the devices was thrown at a house in Lettercreeve in the Ballee area of Ballymena and the other was left on the windowsill of the Diamond Bar in Ahoghill. (RM, IN)

13 January, Saturday
According to one report a 20-strong loyalist gang attacked a Catholic-owned house in Ballynahinch in the early hours of the morning. No one was injured in the attack, although a number of windows were broken. This is the second time that the family have been the targets of a sectarian attack, having had their windows broken and car damaged in May 2000. Sinn Féin spokesperson for the area, Francie Braniff, said he intends presenting a dossier cataloguing attacks in the area to the Irish government. He said: "We are attempting to highlight these attacks and the naked sectarianism behind them but we also want to put on record that the RUC has done little or nothing to prevent them. The situation is that loyalists are attempting to make Ballynahinch a no go area for nationalists. The Langley Road soccer pitches are an example of how a community facility has been made off limits for nationalists. The kerbs have been painted red, white and blue and UDA flags are flying all around it." (RM)

15 January, Monday
The Bishop of Down and Connor celebrated a Mass in Larne in support of Catholics in the town. The Mass took place against a backdrop of continuing sectarian attacks carried out by loyalist paramilitaries. (IN).

The RUC revealed that a pipe bomb used in an attack on a family in Ballymena (see above) was similar to devices used in earlier attacks in the town. The RUC said that they did not believe the attacks were sectarian. (IN)

16 January, Tuesday
RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan blamed the UDA for the recent wave of sectarian attacks against Catholics in Larne. He said that he had no doubt "members of the UDA have been involved." He claimed 25 arrests had been made in connection with sectarian attacks last year but admitted that none had been made recently. Alex Maskey of Sinn Féin criticised the RUC chief for "inaction" in the face of the increasing number of attacks. "Catholics in Larne and elsewhere can see through the sort of PR stunt that Flanagan engaged in this morning. The reality is that his force are so closely associated with loyalist gangs they are incapable of protecting Catholics," he said. (IN)

17 January, Wednesday
A Coleraine family of four, including children aged 7 and 13, escaped injury when a pipe bomb exploded at the rear of their home in the Heights area of the town in the early hours of the 17th. (RUC)

A Catholic man from Larne, David McCambridge, said he was threatened by a loyalist wielding a machete in an incident that took place as Peter Mandelson visited the town. The victim is the brother of Helena McCambridge, whose house was fired at on 3 January (see above). He said: "I was driving along and this guy stared in the window and then threw something at the car. We stopped and I got out to ask him what he thought he was doing when he pulled out the machete. He started shouting abuse, you know, ‘Fenian this and Fenian that’ and threatening us with the knife." The victim had only recently returned to Larne after spending ten years in England to escape loyalist intimidation. (IN)

During Peter Mandelson’s visit to Larne he said that the town must decide whether it wants to be known as "a prosperous port open to all or a sectarian ghetto." He held a private meeting with Catholic families who had been targeted in the ongoing wave of loyalist violence in the town. (IN,IT)

The RUC in Coleraine were criticised after claims that officers stood by and watched as UFF men erected a sectarian banner in Harpur’s Hill, a mixed estate in the Co Derry town. The banner depicted a car with three masked UFF gunmen around it. It was painted on a wooden hoarding erected on a Housing Executive-owned property. Since the banner went up Catholic parents in the area, said to be mixed 60/40, Protestant/Catholic, have stopped their children from catching their school bus at a stop opposite the site of the banner. One resident said: "That’s been put up to intimidate us all. Police sat in the car watching – could they not tell them not to put it up? It’s not right that louts are allowed to come into this estate and do this…this has been put up by these thugs to say ‘we rule here’ – this sort of thing just fills residents with fear and anger." An RUC spokesperson said: "We are aware of the banner. However we cannot remove it unless and until we receive a complaint from the owners of the property [the Housing Executive]." A Housing Executive spokesperson said that it had not given permission for the banner to be erected. (IN, CW)

A Co Antrim man awaiting open-heart surgery escaped injury when loyalists pipe bombed his home in a small Catholic estate on the Bendooragh Road, between Kilrea and Ballymoney. The device was found by the man’s son, in the front garden of his parent’s home. The owner of the house claimed his house was singled out because it was the first house in the estate. The find came after an RUC search of the area failed to discover anything. A warning had been telephoned to the Samaritans in Coleraine. (IN, RM)

A Catholic mother of two from Randalstown was said to be living in fear after four men who claimed to be from the UVF came to her home in the Neilsbrook estate in the town and told her to "get out or you’re dead." Three of the men wore masks but none were visibly armed. The woman, who is now worried about her own safety, said: "The police said they would keep ‘a passive eye’ on the house and when I asked what that meant they said they would look at the house any time they passed in their landrover." In a later incident youths shouted sectarian abuse at the women from a passing car as she was being photographed with Sinn Féin representative Martin Meehan. A spokesperson for the PUP denied the threats had come from the UVF, a claim supported by Sinn Féin who alleged dissident loyalists were to blame. An RUC spokesperson said that they were investigating two cases of alleged intimidation in which a number of men called at houses in the estate. (IN)

A pipe bomb was thrown at the Catholic-owned Slemish Bar, in William Street, Ballymena, at about 10.30pm. A man wearing a green-coloured hooded top was seen attempting to throw the device through a window of the bar. The device failed to explode and was taken away for examination. (IN, RUC)

18 January, Thursday
Members of the family of murdered Portadown man Robert Hamill, who died ten days after being beaten by loyalists in the centre of Portadown just yards from an RUC landrover, met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to reiterate their demands for a public inquiry into his death. Although no confirmation of an inquiry was given, Diane Hamill, sister of the murdered man said: "I don’t doubt that eventually we will get an inquiry." (IN, BBC)

An Alliance Party councillor demanded that British Telecom remove UFF flags attached to telegraph poles in Newtownbreda, Belfast. Councillor Sara Duncan said that the huge flags were causing distress to residents, and that one family who had objected to the flags being flown had their windows broken. (IN)

19 January, Friday
The UDA called on people living in Dunmurry to "remain vigilant" following "the most recent spate of sectarian attacks on Protestant people" in the area. The call, printed on a poster put up around the area, blamed "republican elements" for creating sectarian tensions in the area. Local Sinn Féin councillor Paul Butler described the poster as a "sinister development". He said loyalists may be seeking excuses to launch further attacks against Catholic businesses and residents. SDLP Councillor Billy McDonnell said that he was not aware of attacks on Protestants or Protestant-owned businesses in the area. Dunmurry has been the scene of a number of recent attacks on Catholic-owned homes and businesses (see previous lists of sectarian incidents). (IN)

It was reported that two public houses in Antrim attacked during the previous week belonged to the same owner. The RUC acknowledged that the attack on the Slemish Bar, on Wednesday 17 January, was sectarian. However they said the attack on the Diamond Bar in Ahoghill on the previous Friday was not. A reliable local source suggested to the PFC that the RUC’s version of events was possibly correct. (IN, CW)

21 January, Sunday
In response to the ongoing wave of sectarian attacks in Larne, a member of the PFC published the following article in Ireland on Sunday, 21/01/01:

Catholics may find better luck in Clover?

Clover, South Carolina, may yet offer the solution to one of the more controversial problems facing RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan. The population of the South Carolina town, some 5000 odd, coincides with the number of gallons of water held in a tank which was constructed to serve the Chester and Lenoir Narrow Gauge Railroad back in the 1870s. A town grew up around the water tank whose overflow, according to legend, caused patches of clover to spring up giving rise to the name Clover Patch, later shortened to Clover. It was first settled by descendants of the Scots-Irish and a Feis Clobhair is held each year in June to celebrate its heritage. There are seven schools, three parks and there has only been one ‘signal 35’ in 12 years. A signal 35 is local police code for a murder. Some 22% to 25% of the population are African- American and the Hispanic community is growing. Not many Catholics, taigs or fenians you understand. Not yet.

Clover is twinned with that jewel of Irish towns, Larne, Co Antrim. Aren’t Cloverians lucky ? Larne has been getting it rough these past weeks and months. Hardly a night goes by without reports of sectarian attacks, petrol bombings, pipe bombings, shootings, threats, intimidation and even the odd ‘signal 35’. It’s not a pleasant place. Families are on the move. To get a different perspective on events in Larne I called the Mayor of Clover, Vance Stine, on the telephone this week. Yes he had heard of the difficulties in his twin municipality. In his opinion most people in the South Carolina Low Country would be unfamiliar with sectarianism but those who were compared it with racially motivated violence in the US. Indeed. The Ku Klux Klan held a march in Clover some years back. By all accounts it was an unsuccessful attempt to stir things up. The Mayor encouraged folk not to attend. The Klansmen came. The Klansmen went.

Mayor Stine has visited the county Antrim town on a number of occasions and feels that the media has hyped the problem. Friendships and twinning projects have been established. The First Larne Presbyterian Church is twinned with Clover Presbyterian Church. A youth group would be visiting here in the spring. Would any Catholics be included in the group I enquired. No, since the group was based in one of the Protestant churches. Close shave that. Wouldn’t do to have some innocent Cloverian blessing himself on the wrong side of the tracks in Larne. Did he have any concerns for the proposed visit of the youth group given the growing levels of violence in Larne? Hot spots, he explained, existed everywhere and should be avoided. But he would "evaluate the situation" as it develops. He had never encountered any problems on any visits. Given that Catholics were being driven out of Larne would they, hypothetically, be welcome in Clover I asked? No hesitation. "Absolutely…would be made to feel welcome…no problem." Fair enough I’m thinking. The solution to the problem of Larne is mass emigration to South Carolina. The Mayor would make them welcome but…would they be safe in their beds?

The next phone call was to Clover Police Department. 12 officers in all, 10 white, one black Sergeant and one Hispanic female officer. A very amicable Sergeant Horn patiently answered my queries. I explained the situation in Larne. So if a group like the Ku Klux Klan were mounting attacks on HIS black community in Clover on an almost nightly basis what would he do? Listen up there Ronnie Flanagan. The Clover Police Department would "isolate the enemy…cordon off the entire area…check every vehicle…zero tolerance." Could they deal with situation on their own I wondered? "We would call in the FBI, Secret Service, ATF (that’s the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms squad to you and me), Special Operations Teams and the military." Put that in your pipe and smoke it! Zero tolerance on sectarian attacks. "We would clamp down so tightly nobody could even spit on the sidewalk." If the Klan or anyone else for that matter tried to imitate their UDA comrades they would feel the "full wrath of the Federal Government coming down on their heads." Sounds like Larne Catholics might be better off in Clover than on the Seacourt Estate. Sergeant Horn mentioned that police departments across the US had collected unwanted ‘ballistic vests’ (bullet-proof vests) to send to colleagues in Europe. Any chance of a collection of bullet and bomb proof windows for Catholics in Larne I asked? "Don’t know about the glass but we could see what we could do." So here are two possible solutions. Put the Clover Police Department, tiny as it is, in charge of policing Larne. Surely an improvement on the existing arrangement? The second option might be preferable…mass emigration to South Carolina. I hear it doesn’t rain as much. (IoS)

January 22, Monday
It was reported that a three-year-old Catholic child in Larne had been withdrawn from pre-school over fears that her family were being targeted by loyalists as they drove the child to and from the school. Adele Shaw, mother of the toddler, said that similar action may also be necessary in respect of her other children. Last October a Protestant friend of the family was seriously injured by a booby trap device intended for John Shaw, the father, as he went to collect fish bait on the shore near Larne. Bertie Shaw, John’s uncle, was murdered by the UDA seven years ago and the family narrowly escaped a further attack when a grenade was left under their car in 1997. Recently the family car was burnt out and their home was attacked. (See December attacks) Some parents of Catholic pupils attending schools in the town are reported to have hired a private minibus for their children after recent loyalist attacks during the journey to and from school. In one attack a Catholic teenager was slashed across the face with an iron chain and another 14-year-old schoolboy was badly beaten by a gang of loyalist youths. Ten more families have left their homes in Larne since Christmas. (RM, CW, RUC, IN)

Also in Larne, two Catholic homes and one Protestant home were attacked in the Craigyhill Estate. (CW).

According to the RUC, there have been over 70 sectarian attacks in Larne within the last year but local people say the figure is much higher. A local resident, whose family escaped injury in a pipe bomb attack last week, pointed out that sectarian attacks against Catholic families living in the town were taking place "week in and week out" and many of these incidents remained unreported. (RM, CW, RUC, IN)

January 22/23, Monday/Tuesday
The entrance to First Derry Presbyterian Church was attacked with paint bombs overnight causing damage to the steps and pillars. The church overlooks the city walls and the nationalist Bogside area and has been the subject of repeated paint bomb attacks by nationalist youths over the years. That this building should be targeted is particularly ironic. The father of John Mitchell, (1815-75), Young Irelander, Fenian and member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, was once the Minister at First Derry Presbyterian Church. (IN, DJ, PFC)

January 23, Tuesday
Following the eighth attack on their house a Catholic family decided to leave their Larne home. Helena McCambridge was at home with her two young children when bricks and bottles were thrown through the windows on Monday evening. Her father’s home was also targeted on the same evening. Mrs McCambridge criticised the RUC, saying they "have not lifted anybody for this or any other attack in Larne." According to figures released by the RUC there were 76 sectarian attacks in Larne last year, 53 on Catholics and 35 on Protestants. (RUC, IN, CW)

Meanwhile members of the Northern Ireland Assembly debated the issue of sectarian attacks in Larne with local DUP MLA Roger Hutchinson accusing Alliance member Sean Neeson of "breaking ranks" by raising the issue publicly. The matter would be better dealt with "behind closed doors" according to the DUP representative. During the debate Larne SDLP MLA Danny O’Connor questioned the response of the RUC to the increasing violence in the Co Antrim town. "We have 800 Special Branch officers. Where are they? What are they doing? We need to see a different type of policing. We need to see a political decision made by the secretary of state that this problem will be tackled head on." (IN, PFC)

The UDP announced that a quarter of the party’s ruling body had resigned over the party’s position on the peace process. The defections came from the chairman of the party executive Jackie Hammond, as well as sections in Derry, Coleraine, Larne, Ballymoney, Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus, all covered by the north Antrim–Derry and the South-East Antrim branches. These are the areas where the UDA is thought to be behind an upsurge in loyalist sectarian violence. It is believed that a third of the party membership has left. (RM, IN, DJ,IT, RTE)

January 24, Wednesday
Loyalists are believed to be behind the early morning pipe bomb attack on a Catholic family in the Oldpark area of Belfast. Five members of the Magee family escaped injury when the device exploded in the living room of their Lothair Avenue house. The family was forced to move out after the pipe bomb attack. In December 21-year-old Sean Paul Magee was arrested and charged following the interception of an alleged Continuity IRA bomb in the centre of Belfast and it is believed the attack on his family may be connected to the publication in court of his home address. (IN)

On the same night two houses in the Kinnard Park area of Garvagh, Co Derry, were pipe bombed. The devices were thrown through the living room windows of the homes at around 1.15am. No one was injured. A third pipe bomb was also found nearby. (RUC, BBC, IN)

At around 5am a loyalist gunman opened fire on the home of a prominent republican in the Ardoyne area of Belfast. No one was injured in the early morning attack on the home of Martin Meehan Jr, son of the Sinn Féin MLA of the same name. One bullet hit the doorframe and another came through the window hitting an inside wall. For safety reasons Martin Jr has since moved his two young children to their grandmother’s house. The Red Hand Defenders (RHD), widely regarded as a cover name for the UDA, claimed the attack. The attack came within hours of a warning to the Meehan family by the RUC of an imminent loyalist attack. (IN, RUC, RM)

January 25, Thursday
Pupils at Beechfield Primary School and McArthur Nursery School in the Short Strand area of Belfast were evacuated following the discovery of six pipe bombs on the roof of the school. The RUC claimed the devices had probably been on the roof for some time while a local Sinn Féin spokesman said local people believed the devices had landed on the roof following attempts by loyalists to attack nearby homes. A report later in the week (26.1.01) in the Irish News said that the pipe bombs were of a type previously used by loyalists. (IN, IT, RUC, BBC)

Army bomb experts removed a suspect device from Holmdene Gardens in the Ardoyne area of Belfast. (RUC)

January 26, Friday
A Catholic Church in Bushmills, County Antrim, suffered extensive fire and smoke damage when a car was pushed against its front door and set alight just after 1:30am. This was the second attack in six months on St. Mary’s Church in Priestland Road. Fr Alex McMullan thanked those in the Bushmills community who spoke out against the arsonists. He added: "We abhor all attacks on church property and halls of any sacred place, but I am more concerned about families being attacked in their homes." (IN, RUC)

A former Sinn Féin member escaped uninjured after discovering a home-made bomb under his car just after 7am in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast. He had left his wife and five children in their house in Kerrera Mews while he went to warm the engine. The intended victim inspected the device and then called the RUC, who defused it in a controlled explosion. The man had received a series of death threats from loyalist paramilitaries in the preceding weeks, and was warned only days earlier by the RUC that his life was in danger. "My personal view is that these attacks are coming from the UDA," the man told the Irish News. ( IN, RM, RUC)

David Armstrong was sentenced to five years in jail in Belfast for a "premeditated, vicious and unprovoked sectarian attack" on November 29, last year. Armstrong attacked his victim with a machete and an imitation gun outside his home in the Short Strand area. When he was arrested he told the RUC: "The taigs [pejorative word for Catholics] are at us all the time. They shoot at us. When can we get our own back?" (IN)

A Catholic woman and her husband escaped injury after a pipe bomb attack on their house in Shearwater way, in the predominantly Protestant Clooney estate in Derry’s Waterside. It emerged later in the week that the woman’s sister, who lives nearby with her husband and who later discovered a similar device in her garden, had been targeted at the same time. Both families vowed to stay put. (RUC, IN,DJ, LS)

British army bomb experts removed a pipe bomb from the roof of a car at Carnany Drive in Ballymoney. (RUC, IN)

January 27, Saturday
January 27 has been designated Holocaust Memorial Day to mark the 56th anniversary of the liberation of survivors of the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is intended that all victims of genocide will be remembered on this day. (IN)

In Derry a number of people, most of whom are thought to be Catholics, were attacked on Palace Street by loyalists who had been attending a function at the nearby Apprentice Boys Memorial hall. The attacks left thirteen injured, including a man and a woman with broken arms, and a woman with a suspected broken nose. One of those injured, a Dutch national, told the Derry Journal that she had been told by the RUC that the UVF had held a meeting in the Memorial Hall just prior to the attack. Ronnie Splatt, chairman of the Society Club, which is based in the Memorial Hall, later denied this claim. The attack was condemned by politicians from across the spectrum, including DUP assemblyman Willie Hay. (IN, DJ, LS)

January 28, Sunday
Residents from the mainly Protestant Fountain area on Derry’s Cityside were stoned by a number of nationalist youths as they watched the Bloody Sunday commemoration march from the City’s Walls. Later on a group of youths attacked the Fountain estate with stones and paint bombs. (LS)

January 29, Monday
Six members of one family, including a pregnant woman, escaped injury when a pipe bomb was found at their house in Bawnmore Park, in Greencastle, Co Antrim. (IN)

According to press reports the RUC have briefed journalists that the person orchestrating the pipe bomb attacks across the north west had been arrested in connection with the Greysteel "Trick or Treat" massacre in October 1993, and then released without charge. (DJ, BBC)

In Ardoyne, another son of prominent republican Martin Meehan became the target of a loyalist gun attack. At 12.30am bullets were fired through the bedroom and kitchen windows of the house the man shares with his partner. Both were uninjured. As is the case with the attack on his brother on the same street on January 24, the RUC had warned the family just hours before the attack that it was imminent. The Red Hand Defenders (RHD) also claimed this attack. (See January 24, Wednesday). (IN, RM, RUC)

In Woodburn Crescent, Coleraine, a Catholic couple escaped injury after a pipe bomb was thrown through their living room window. The couple escaped the room before the device exploded, spreading shrapnel across the room. (IN, RUC)

An hour previously a Catholic mother and her two children escaped uninjured when a device, which failed to explode, was thrown through the window of her Harpur’s Hill home in Coleraine. (IN)

The RUC in Coleraine released details of an 8-point plan, which they say help will curb the spiralling loyalist violence:

  1. "Request for councillors, clergy, community groups and individuals to express their revulsion at this bigoted activity, which does not represent the main majority of Coleraine residents.
  2. To provide a professional and sympathetic response to victims of these attacks.
  3. To work closely with the media and keep them abreast with developments.
  4. Seek to obtain greater forensic analysis of items recovered from these crime scenes.
  5. Police will initiate searches of property.
  6. Police will increase the level of stop and search of individuals and vehicles.
  7. Appeals for more information from the public, including those in the plumbing trade.
  8. Police and military operations including covert operations will be increased. Those who carry out these attacks often look out for patrol vehicles. The covert operations will counter this tactic. "(IN)
January 30, Tuesday
Belfast’s Mater hospital was put on alert after loyalists issued a death threat to members of staff. It is widely believed the UDA was behind the threat. Billy Hutchinson of the PUP joined other unionist politicians in strongly condemning the threat. (IN, BBC)

A Catholic woman escaped injury in a pipe bomb attack in North Belfast. The device failed to go off after it was thrown through her car window. The woman, who works at the Wishing Well Family Centre on the predominantly Protestant Alliance Road, unwittingly handled the bomb before alerting the RUC. At the same time nationalists in the nearby Ardoyne area were warned by the RUC of potential loyalist attacks. (IN)

Pastor Clifford Peebles, the anti-agreement fundamentalist preacher associated with the LVF and the Orange Volunteers, pleaded guilty in court to the possession of two Russian-made RGD-5 grenades, two detonators and a pipe bomb. Peebles, 31, first came to prominence as a member of the now discredited Families Against Intimidation and Terror (FAIT), whose founder Vincent McKenna is now serving a jail term for a string of sexual offences against his daughter. RUC sources told the Irish News that it believes a group of fundamentalist preachers are orchestrating dissident loyalist violence. One of them is said to have blessed the handgun that was used in the 1998 killing of Belfast Catholic Brian Service. Peebles’ guru is a prominent member of the British-Israelite sect (who believe that the Protestants of Ulster are the lost tribe of Israel), who was once photographed wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Ulster needs ethnic cleansing", and who advocates the formation of a far-right fundamentalist Christian militia. Other members of the sect have included now deceased William McGrath, "the beast of Kincora", who raped and assaulted young boys in his care in the home he ran in east Belfast. There are allegations that MI5 twice obstructed investigations into the Kincora scandal. McGrath is the alleged British intelligence contact urged to set up "his own Orange ginger group" (Moore 1996) in the mid 1960s. He set up Tara, a group within the Orange Order which evolved into a religious paramilitary group which prepared its members for a "Doomsday" scenario of British withdrawal from Ireland. Peebles co-accused, James McGookin-Fisher initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, but changed his plea on the second day of the trial. See "For God And Ulster; an Alternative Guide to the Loyal Orders" on the PFC website listed below. (IN, PFC, C.Moore 1996: The Kincora Scandal)

UDP spokesman John White has accused nationalists of stage-managing attacks in their own areas in an effort to cash-in on security grants. The statement has echoes of the 1973 statement by the Reverend Ian Paisley in response to the UFF/UDA claimed sectarian double-murder of SDLP Senator Paddy Wilson and his companion, Irene Andrews. At the time Paisley said "To blame Protestants for this dastardly crime on the strength of a phone call is highly irresponsible, there are pointers that the so-called Ulster Freedom Fighters are IRA men seeking to stir the pot against the Protestant community and find excuses to murder Protestant leaders." In fact John White himself was later convicted of carrying out the attack, in which Wilson and Andrews were stabbed a total of 51 times. This trial judge described the attack as a "frenzied attack, a psychotic outburst".

In response to White’s recent statement, the Andersonstown News wrote the following editorial:

"The same old unionist story"

Families burned out of their homes in any of the interminable series of sectarian pogroms which have convulsed this rotten little statelet since its inception – and, indeed, before – will not be surprised to hear the words of UDP man John White this week. Taking up a familiar old refrain, Mr White told an Andersonstown News reporter that he thought Catholics were shooting up their own homes. He said loyalists were "bewildered" by the violence being perpetrated against vulnerable Catholics. In case it hasn’t occurred to Mr White, let this paper put him on the right track. These attacks are being carried out by the UDA for precisely the same reason that John White and his accomplices took their guns and knives to their victims in the past: because they harbour a murderous hatred in their hearts towards Catholics. Rather than spout this kind of outrageous and insulting garbage, Mr White would be better employed doing what it is that he says he wants to do – support the Belfast Agreement and bring an end to violence. If he was serious about doing this, he would save his words for the thugs who are carrying out these attacks day in and day out, instead of resorting to the kind of sectarian bile that he so likes to indulge in. Not that it’s only Mr White who is culpable as the pipe bombs continue to explode and the gunfire echoes through the streets. We have long been used to the weasel words and duplicitous and ambiguous responses of unionist politicians to loyalist sectarian violence. The silence of many of those in positions of power within the unionist family has been absolutely deafening – almost as deafening as the silence of the republican guns that still get them so excited. We hear much about the pain that unionists have had to endure over the course of this peace process. Let them take it from us: it is nothing compared to the pain of having to endure the continuing self-righteous cant and murderous humbug that has been the hallmark of unionism for the past 80 years. " (AN)

Sources:

AN: Andersonstown News.

BBC: BBC radio and television news, BBC online, Radio Foyle.

CW: Local community workers.

DJ: Derry Journal

G Guardian

IE Irish Examiner

IN: Irish News

IT Irish Times

IOS: Ireland on Sunday

LS: Londonderry Sentinel

Mi The Mirror

NBN North Belfast News

PFC: Pat Finucane Centre.

RM: RM Distribution.

RUC: RUC website

ST Sunday Tribune


Sectarian attacks section

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