Sectarian Attacks

June 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 30 June 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.

2 June

Nationalist residents from Derry’s Mountjoy Street called publicly for an end to the escalating problem of missiles and sectarian abuse being hurled across the interface from the adjoining loyalist Fountain estate.

4 June

A loyalist pipe bomb attack on a family in south Down is believed to have been a sectarian murder attempt. The RUC revealed that the pipe bomb was similar to one found in nearby Clough within the last two months.

Loyalists in Portadown dragged a pallet across the road forcing vehicles travelling home from a GAA match to slow down. In one of several incidents a bus driver was injured when a brick was hurled at him, smashing the vehicle’s windscreen. A number of passengers were showered with glass during the attack. In another incident, two cars travelling along the same route carrying four women and six children were stoned. One woman from Lurgan said her sister’s car was attacked and the windscreen smashed.

5 June

Loyalists attacked a Catholic taxi driver as he drove down Corcrain Road in Portadown.

Ulster Unionist MP and former UDR officer Ken Maginnis was struck in the head with a beer can as he was eating out in a restaurant in Dungannon, Co Tyrone. It is not known whether the motive for the assault was sectarian.

6 June

Republican sources reported that a nationalist resident of the County Down town of Ballynahinch came close to serious injury when a loyalist held a broken cider bottle to her face. "You’re lucky you’re a fuckin’ woman", he was reported as saying as he held her by the throat. The incident happened the previous Friday, 26 May, at 11.45pm, when a drunken loyalist mob rampaged through the town. One loyalist smashed the windscreen of the woman’s car and then danced on the bonnet. She was later followed home. When she phoned the RUC to report this they took 25 minutes to arrive. Two days later the woman recognised the same gang harassing a young nationalist man in the town. The incidents come amid accusations of the RUC turning a blind eye to loyalist intimidation.

The coroner for Greater Belfast decided not to hold an inquest into the death of Portadown man Robert Hamill out of concern for the safety of witnesses. Robert Hamill died in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital in 1997 from injuries sustained when he was attacked in Portadown by a loyalist mob while the RUC looked on.

International visitors touring the north of Ireland were the victims of a sectarian attack when their vehicles were destroyed by fire in the early hours of the morning. The backpacking tourists were evacuated from their hostel when three minibuses and a car parked outside were set alight. All four vehicles carried southern Irish registrations. The tourists from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States were staying overnight at the Linen House Hostel in Kent Street, close to the loyalist Shankill Road. Around 150 guests were evacuated to the nearby Catholic parochial hall where they stayed for 30 minutes while the blaze was brought under control.

A Free Presbyterian protest led by Ian Paisley jeered Irish President Mary McAleese as she went to attend the inauguration of the new Presbyterian moderator at Church House in Belfast. Mr Paisley also voiced anger that the Presbyterian Church had joined the World Council of Churches, of which the Catholic Church is a member.

6 June

Arsonists set fire to St Malachy’s Catholic Church on the Ormeau Road in Belfast. The attack is believed to have been sectarian.

Loyalist John Peter Killen was jailed for six months for threatening to kill a Catholic employee at a TESCO supermarket in Belfast. Three men surrounded the employee and held a knife to him while threatening to kill him.

7 June

St John's Catholic Church in Portadown, scene of a cross-community concert a week previously, was set on fire by arsonists The attack is believed to have been sectarian.

8 June

A Catholic woman and her 20-month-old baby escaped with their lives after loyalists threw a pipe bomb at their home in Annalong, South Down.

12 June

The British government announced that no action would be taken against a British army officer who unfurled an Orange Order flag while a regimental photograph was being taken. Armed Forces Minister John Spellar said in a written Commons statement that military police had completed their investigation into the incident last summer, involving a Major in the 8th battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment at Armagh’s Drumadd Barracks. The photograph, picturing 60 uniformed Royal Irish Regiment members with an Orange Order banner, was taken on 12 July 1999, shortly after the army had been supporting the security operation in Portadown, County Armagh. The soldiers, whose regiment was formerly known as the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), were holding a banner which appeared to read: "Drumcree: Here we stand, we can do no other. For religious and civil liberty."

Mr Spellar said the circumstances in which photos were taken could be "misinterpreted".

Arsonists set fire to St Mary's Catholic Church in Cushendall, Co Antrim. In Ahoghill, County Antrim two Catholic primary schools, St Mary’s and St Joseph’s were also set on fire. All three attacks are thought to have been sectarian.

14 June

Garfield Gilmour, the loyalist who a week previously had his conviction for the murder of the three Quinn brothers overturned, was given 14 years for their manslaughter. Jason (7), Mark (9), and Richard Quinn (10) were murdered in a UVF firebomb attack on their home in Ballymoney on 12 July 1998. The three boys were killed at the height of the stand-off by Orangemen at Drumcree hill in Portadown. None of the other three loyalists known to have carried out the attack with Gilmour have been arrested. Taking into account time already served and 50% remission for good behaviour, Gilmour is expected to be released in 2005.

British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Mandelson, refused to answer questions tabled in the House of Commons about RUC officers intimidating and threatening people being brought into custody. The questions follow the jailing, for the first time ever, of two RUC officers for the assault and sectarian abuse of an innocent man they had taken into custody. The RUC men had also threatened to have the man shot by the LVF.

Three live bullets were found by the thirteen-year-old girl in Derry after the RUC had called at her family home on the Creggan estate.

16 June

Catholic workers employed by Denny’s food processing plant in Portadown downed tools after placards carrying sectarian slogans were erected adjacent to the main factory entrance. The placards, measuring eight feet by four, carried offensive slogans referring to the murder of local Catholic Robert Hamill, as well as other slogans such as "PARAS - SHOOT TO KILL" (a reference to Bloody Sunday). They were later removed as a result of the workers’ actions. Denny’s factory is located between the loyalist Edgarstown estate and the nationalist Obins Street area, and is only 100 yards from the family home of Robert Hamill. Over the previous week there were a number of incidents where loyalist gangs had thrown missiles at Catholics leaving the factory.

Also in Portadown a Catholic owned taxi was attacked by a loyalist mob at 9.00pm. The taxi was driving along Corcrain Road when the gang struck, showering the vehicle with missiles. The driver narrowly escaped injury when a brick smashed through the vehicle’s front windscreen.

Loyalists throwing stones and wielding baseball bats attacked cars taking people to Mass in Clonard, north Belfast.

A leading west Belfast republican won a judicial review to force the RUC to explain why they refused to show him the photograph of himself that had been leaked to loyalists.

17 June

For the third night in succession loyalist gangs threw fireworks at Catholic homes in Obins Drive and Obins Avenue in Portadown. Residents are said to be afraid that the next explosion may be caused by a loyalist pipe-bomb. In June of last year a 65 year-old grandmother, Elizabeth O’Neill, was murdered when loyalists threw a pipe bomb through the window of her Portadown home.

Loyalist paramilitaries in north Belfast placed paramilitary flags and banners around nationalist estates as the contentious Tour of the North parade took place.

19 June

The Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF - nom de guerre of the UDA) made a statement pledging to break its ceasefire and shoot Catholics "if attacks on Protestant homes continue". The statement, believed to come from the Shankill Road UDA, went on to accuse Catholics of the ethnic cleansing of Protestant areas.

In response the Northern Ireland Housing Executive took the unusual step of releasing a statement saying that it had no record of any Protestants being intimidated out of their homes in the previous month. It had, however, had to re-house 21 Catholic families because of intimidation by loyalists in the same period.

Tensions continued to rise at the interface between the Shankill Road and the Springfield Road, scene of a planned contentious parade by the Orange Order on June 24, as missiles were thrown across the interface at nationalists on a nightly basis.

The UDA is believed to be behind a campaign of organised intimidation which has seen the numbers of Catholics families living in the Greymount area of north Belfast drop from 100 to only 12 in recent years.

Johnny Adair, leader of the Shankill Road UDA, recently featured on a TV documentary probing alleged drugs rackets in loyalist areas of West Belfast. There are believed to be power struggles within the UDA/UFF as well as between it and rival loyalist paramilitary grouping, the UVF. Adair is said to be keen to fill the vacuum on the loyalist far-right left by the murder of Portadown LVF commander Billy Wright. Adair has pledged support for the Orangemen at Drumcree in Portadown. He is said to be building up links with the LVF as well as "respectable" people within Orangeism and Unionism in Portadown.

Loyalists in Whiteabbey, north Belfast, attacked the Jordanstown Inn, a nationalist public house. Several of the customers needed hospital treatment.

20 June

Arsonists set fire to St Coleman’s Catholic Church in Greenisland, Co Antrim.

21 June

Open confrontation between nationalists and loyalists following incursions by loyalists on the nationalist Springfield road in Belfast resulted in three RUC officers being injured. It is strongly suspected that the UDA is behind the incursions. Politicians of almost every hue agreed that the recent UFF/UDA threats to kill Catholics had heightened tensions locally.

22 June

After negotiations between residents on both sides of the interface, the gates in the ‘peace line’ at Lanark Way on the Springfield Road were opened. They had to be shut again after incursions by loyalists the same evening.

Loyalist threats prevented a builder from completing vital defensive work at a notorious sectarian flashpoint in Portadown, and at another point on the edge of the Garvaghy Road area vulnerable to attack. The contractor was to have removed a bridge that has provided a vantage point for loyalist snipers, bombers and stone-throwers in past years. The contractor was also due to reinforce a defensive wall at the end of a Catholic street in the same area. The LVF issued a death threat and the work ceased, leaving the nationalist community vulnerable in advance of this year's threatened violence.

24 June

Men dressed in paramilitary regalia and brandishing UVF and UFF/UDA flags were filmed marching ahead of a flute band during the controversial Orange march on the nationalist end of the Springfield Road in Belfast. Participants, organisers of the march, unionist representatives and RUC officers all initially denied seeing the offending display which was a blatant breach of the Parades’ Commission guidelines on marches. This came only days after the UFF/UDA had issued its threat to kill Catholics. Springfield Road Residents had earlier clashed with the RUC when loyalists played sectarian tunes over a tannoy system as the marchers prepared to cross the peace line onto the nationalist side. This was also in breach of the Parades Commission guidelines. There were minor scuffles between nationalist residents and representatives and the RUC as the offending section of the march passed. Three Sinn Féin representatives were injured by RUC batons.

26 June

The nationalist Circus Bar, on the Antrim Road in north Belfast, was badly damaged in a fire blamed on loyalist paramilitaries. The UFF/UDA had previously threatened Catholic businesses in the area with "further action" if loyalist flags were tampered with.

27 June

The Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Frank McCoubrey, received a death threat which he claimed came from republicans. Councillor McCoubrey of the UDP, the political party closely associated with the UFF/UDA, cancelled all public engagements. Michael Brown of Sinn Féin said it was unlikely the threat came from the IRA, as there had been no suggestion of a breach in the IRA's cease-fire. Mr Brown expressed "empathy" for Mr McCoubrey's "unenviable position, a position many Sinn Fein members had found themselves in in recent months." Mr McCoubrey had been present at the contentious Orange Order parade on the nationalist Springfield Road on 24 June when a UFF banner had been carried by men in paramilitary uniform.

An IRA man is reported to have fired on loyalists with an automatic rifle after two incursions by loyalists into the St James area in west Belfast. The incident happened after locals chased a group of loyalist men back to their cars in a TESCO car park after they had been seen damaging cars and houses with golf clubs and sticks. The IRA man is said to have opened fire after one of the loyalists fired on his pursuers with a handgun. No one is believed to have been injured.

The Parades’ Commission criticised the Orange Order for raising sectarian tensions around the Garvaghy Road in Portadown and throughout the north by filing for a new parade along the controversial route just a week before the main parade on 9 July.

29 June

Loyalist paramilitaries were blamed for the arson attack at St Oliver Plunkett's GAA club in Clady, Co Derry.

Two south Derry GAA officials received death threats from a loyalist group calling itself the Orange Volunteers. The same group clamed responsibility for the death of GAA man Sean Brown and boasted they were recruiting extensively among members of the Orange Order.

Tourists trying to escape the 12th by going on holiday in Spain were shocked to find a Benidorm pub bedecked with loyalist slogans and regalia. Tiles at the front door of the Golden Last Bar spell out the words ‘36th Ulster Division’, a reference to the UVF, and the UFF/UDA slogan ‘Simply the Best’. "Its more like the Costa Balaclava than the Costa Brava or Blanca" said one of the tourists.

30 June

The UFF (cover name for the UDA) painted a new mural on the Shankill road celebrating some of its massacres. Above the legend ‘Wouldn't it be great if it were like this all the time?’ five vignettes celebrate the massacres at the Rising Sun Bar in Greysteel, Sean Graham’s bookmakers on the Ormeau Road, James Murray's bookmakers, the Devenish arms and Kennedy Way council depot.

The Red Hand Defenders, the group which claimed responsibility for the murder of Rosemary Nelson, and believed to be another front for the UDA, issued death threats to staff at a community centre in north Lurgan.

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