Sectarian Attacks

1-7 July 2000


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 and race attacks is from 1 through 7 July 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.

Due to the upsurge in sectarian attacks during July 2000 we plan to release an updated version of this list on a weekly basis for the duration of the month.

Saturday 1 July

Nationalist protesters clashed with the RUC after a loyalist parade entered a nationalist cul-de-sac in Annalong.

SDLP MLA Carmel Hanna condemned the erection of hundreds of loyalist paramilitary flags in south Belfast. She said that she considered the erection of the flags to be 'nothing less than sectarian harassment.'

Two Catholic families were targeted in petrol bomb attacks in the loyalist Steeple estate in Antrim over the weekend. A petrol bomb was found outside the home of an elderly couple, who have since fled the estate, and a petrol bomb was thrown at a car parked in the driveway of a house at Birchill Park. The few Catholics remaining in the area are said to be afraid they are 'next on the list.'

Sunday 2 July

The Orange Order was once again prevented from parading along the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown. Speaking after the parade was stopped, District Master Harold Gracey called for widespread protests across the north of Ireland: "The people of Ulster will speak and they will come out in their numbers. It is easy for security forces to contain us here at Drumcree, but if you get out, if your friends get out in the towns and villages…they will see what the Ulsterman is about." Stoneyford Orangeman Mark Harbinson had earlier proclaimed that "the war begins today." (Harbinson has previously been arrested, questioned and then released in connection with the 1998 sectarian murder of Catholic student Ciaran Heffron in Crumlin and the discovery of loyalist death lists at an Orange Hall in nearby Stoneyford.) There had already been skirmishes between loyalists and the RUC, and several people had been injured, including camera crews and a thirteen-year-old boy. No arrests were made.

Limited numbers of loyalists across the north of Ireland responded to Gracey's call, beginning a week of widespread violence and sectarian intimidation.

A masked loyalist gang attacked a Catholic home in the Protestant Fortwilliam area of Belfast. The gang tried to smash the front window of the house with bricks. Protective plastic sheeting prevented the window from shattering, and the men then attacked the window with iron bars as the occupants, a twenty-seven year old man and his twenty-five year old partner were trapped inside. The gang than broke down the front door of the house, and, after the occupants barricaded themselves in the living room, they smashed up the hallway of the house before leaving. The occupants claim that as relatives arrived to help one of them was hit by an RUC officer. The couple have said that they will not be returning to the house.

Overnight violence related to the Drumcree protest erupted in Portadown, Belfast, Co Down and Co Tyrone. Seven RUC officers were injured at Drumcree, an armoured vehicle was set alight and a crate of petrol bombs was seized at Meadow Lane in the town. In Belfast the RUC came under attack in Templemore Avenue and a group of loyalist women blocked the Shore Road.

A group of around 40 loyalists blocked a road at Clough, Co Down. A Catholic driver was stopped at the roadblock. He was asked where he came from and was told to sing 'The Sash' before driving away at speed.

Monday 3 July

On Monday the Parades Commission released its determination once again banning the main Drumcree Parade on 9 July from entering the Garvaghy Road as violence related to the protest continued.

A crowd of over fifty loyalists, led by Johnny Adair, appeared on Drumcree Hill behind a banner reading 'Shankill Road UFF Second Batt C Coy.' The group, in identical T-shirts carrying the UFF/UDA slogan 'Simply the Best' stood in silence for about twenty minutes less than fifty yards from British army lines.

In the Corcrain area of Portadown LVF gunmen fired a volley of shots as a gathered crowd, including UFF/UDA leader Johnny Adair looked on and cheered.

Windows in two Catholic-owned houses were broken in a late night attack by a loyalist gang at Hamilton Street, near the Markets area in south Belfast. The residents said they are now afraid to return in case of further attacks.

Tuesday 4 July

Drumcree-inspired loyalist protests continued across the north of Ireland.

Roads in north Belfast were blocked and cars were hijacked and burned in North Queen Street. Other roads blocked included the Crumlin Road, Shore Road, Ballygomartin Road, Ligoniel Road, Woodvale Road, Doagh Road, Oldpark, Beersbridge Road, Old Holywood Road, Braniel Road, Linfield Road, Safeway, Dundonald and Grand Parade.

Petrol bombs were thrown in the Ormeau Park area and the Milltown Road was blocked when a lorry was set on fire.

Protests also took place in Coleraine, Armagh, Dungannon, Ballymena, Lisburn and the Waterside area in Derry.

Catholic members of staff at Belfast City Hospital complained after a poster was placed on a staff notice board calling on other staff to gather at Sandy Row the next day in support of the Drumcree protests. The poster, which was in an area only accessible to staff, was removed after complaints from Catholic workers.

A Swiss tourist and two young children narrowly escaped injury when loyalists stoned a taxi they were travelling in on the outskirts of west Belfast.

A Catholic owned electrical shop was gutted in a sectarian arson attack in Ahoghill, Co Antrim Damage estimated at thousands of pounds was caused to Dougan's Electrics in Church Street in the town after flammable liquid was poured through a hole broken in the roof of the shop.

A Catholic man and his Protestant girlfriend were forced to flee their home after a loyalist attack in the Ligonial area of Belfast on Tuesday night. The couple claimed that they called the RUC five times for help, and that RUC landrovers were sitting less than two hundred yards away during the attack but failed to intervene. They said they were "shocked and disgusted" at the attitude of the RUC. Every window in the house was smashed, paint was hurled at the brickwork and the couple's car taken from the driveway and burned. The couple, who have lived in the area for almost two years, have said they will never return. During the attack a neighbour came out and asked the rioters to leave his house alone because he was "a good Christian." Three of the mob then stood at his house to make sure it wasn't attacked.

During the night an RUC officer opened fire after loyalists attacked a patrol. No one was reported injured. At around 1.00am the RUC fired a number of shots after masked men approached in a car from the loyalist Cambrai street area.

Water cannon were used at Drumcree on Tuesday night, their first deployment in the north of Ireland for almost thirty years.

Wednesday 5 July

It was reported on Wednesday that members of extreme right-wing organisation Combat 18 had arrived in Portadown and were intent on orchestrating sectarian violence. Loyalist organisations in the north of Ireland have long held links with extreme right wing groups in England. It is believed that the same group was behind a series of sectarian attacks in Rathfriland.

Fears were reported to be growing in the mainly nationalist Co Antrim village of Crumlin ahead of Friday night's Orange Order Parade. A spokeswoman for Crumlin Concerned Residents warned nationalists to be vigilant, claiming loyalist extremists were intent on "stirring up tensions." A group of international observers have been invited to monitor the parade. On Wednesday night the Orange arch in the town was damaged after a stolen lorry was reversed into it.

On Wednesday night a petrol bomb was thrown at the living room window of a Catholic-owned house in Ardmore Crescent in Armagh, about two hundred yards from a loyalist estate. A woman and her three children were in the house at the time. The petrol bomb bounced off a wall and landed in a skip. Gareth Chambers (18) and Christine Lockhart (17) have been remanded in custody following the attack, the latest in a long line of attacks on the Catholic family.

In Belfast a car belonging to a Catholic priest was hijacked and burned during a loyalist protest on the Donegal Road. The attack was caught on camera, and two masked youths could clearly be seen pulling the elderly man from his car. The priest is said to be "terribly shaken by the ordeal."

Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey claimed that loyalists attempted to shoot two men in the Ardoyne area on Wednesday night. He said that a car approached two men standing at a road junction and opened fire with a handgun. The gun jammed and the two men escaped. One of the men said: " The gunman, who was in the back seat and wearing a balaclava, put the gun out the window and pulled the trigger…they reversed the car and aimed the gun at me a second time and it clicked twice. Thankfully it jammed." The car later approached another man but the gun jammed again. The car was later seen going into a loyalist estate. The UFF/UDA have since been blamed for the attack.

Catholic residents in the Short Strand were trapped in their homes as around two hundred loyalists attacked houses at the corner of Bryson Street. Windows were smashed in several houses and one man battled to keep his door closed as a number of men tried to break it down. He later had to evacuate his family. The local Catholic Church, St Matthews, was also attacked

Loyalists threw bricks and paint bombs at the home of a Catholic family in the Salliagh Park estate Larne, the latest in a long line of attacks against an extended Catholic family living in the estate.

Nationalist homes were attacked and their cars burnt during a night of violence in north Belfast. Gunfire is also said to have been exchanged between rioters and the RUC.

Thursday 6 July

It was reported on Thursday that Catholic residents in north Belfast were living in fear of their lives following a series of attacks on their homes by loyalist gangs. It was also reported that nationalists had been warned to stay away from the local health centre situated at North Queen Street, which sits across the Tiger's Bay/New Lodge interface. Security fencing had to be erected to protect new nationalist-owned houses in the North Queen Street area. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams called for the closure of security gates at Lanark Way off the Springfield Road to be closed to prevent further loyalist attacks.

The security forces released figures showing the extent of violence since Drumcree related protests began on Sunday. The figures show that there had been 109 attacks on the security forces; thirty RUC officers injured; 105 petrol bombs thrown; 37 homes attacked; 141 reports of damage to vehicles and 34 hijackings. In response there had been 43 arrests; 29 people had been charged with 17 other cases noted with a view to prosecution and 3 (three) plastic bullets fired. The official statistics must be treated with extreme caution since many attacks are not reported.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson described the flying of loyalist flags and the painting of kerbstones in a mixed area of Limavady as an "exercise in sectarian intimidation."

An Orange Hall was damaged in an arson attack outside Kilrea in Co Derry. The Killygullib Orange Hall was gutted after petrol was poured through the roof and set alight.

St Mary's Catholic church in Bushmills was damaged when petrol was poured through a stained-glass window and set alight. Minor damage was caused to the building.

Friday 7 July

Members of a crowd accompanying an Orange Order parade through Crumlin shouted sectarian abuse at nationalist bystanders, including remarks about Bobby Sands, Rosemary Nelson and the Greysteel massacre.

A Catholic man suffered a serious facial injury in a shooting that has been linked to the attempted removal of a Union Jack flag. The man was shot with a legally held shotgun on Friday night near Clough in Co Antrim. A 69 year-old man has since been charged with GBH in connection with the shooting.

During an interview on Friday afternoon Harold Gracey refused to condemn the violence linked to the protests he had called for the previous Sunday. In response to a question from a BBC journalist he said " No I'll not condemn it. Gerry Adams doesn't condemn violence so I'll not."

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