Sectarian Attacks

May 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 and race attacks is from 1 through 31 May 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 May A Catholic man was admitted to hospital after being badly beaten by a gang in Currynerin, on Derry’s Waterside. The attack is believed to have been sectarian.

2 May A Catholic family fled their Larne home after a crossbow and nail bomb attack at 4 am. The night before loyalists had tried to set fire to their car.

Also in Larne, 31 year old Protestant footballer Jackie Coulter was in intensive care after being badly beaten by a mob who thought he was a Catholic.

5 May A middle aged woman living off Clifton Park Avenue in Belfast escaped serious injury when loyalists smashed her bedroom window as she was getting ready for bed. The woman said she believed her venetian blinds had shielded her from the full impact of the missile. Clifton Park Avenue is the street where a large number of nationalist families were ‘put out’ at the time of the 1998 loyalist "Tour of the North" parade.

6 May The front door of a house on the nationalist Springfield road in West Belfast was kicked in by loyalists. On the same stretch three houses close to the gate in the peace line now have new reinforced front doors after loyalists broke them down with sledgehammers. The two houses directly facing the gate were built without any windows because of frequent petrol bombing while under construction. The houses along the same stretch have protective grills over the windows. Tensions are rising in the area in the run up to the controversial loyalist parade up the Springfield road. Community workers and politicians from within the loyalist community are adamant that "both sides are to blame". This is denied by nationalists.

Garvaghy Road residents in Portadown hit out at the changing of the Parades Commissions criteria for allowing a controversial march to go ahead. Consideration is now to be given to "the risk of serious public disorder" and residents fear that the threat of violence if a march is banned could cause the Commission to allow a march to go ahead.

Three Ulsterbus coaches, taking loyalist bandsmen from Limavady to Newtonstewart were attaked in Strabane by a group of 40 youths wearing Celtic tops. The youths smashed windows and windscreens with bricks before pelting the buses with beetroot jars and other missiles. Five people were injured, including one of the drivers who sustained an eye injury. The attack was roundly condemned by politicians, including Jarlath McNulty and Ivan Barr from Sinn Fein who denounced such acts of "blatant sectarianism", calling on those who carried them out to cease immediately.

10 May

Sinn Fein announced plans to enlist the UN in a bid to force the RUC to give more information about loyalist plans to assassinate Catholics.

Belfast Crown court made legal history when it jailed two RUC officers for the sectarian beating of 18 year old Catholic Bernard Griffin. The court sentenced constables Michael McGowan and Darren James Neill for a year and two years respectively. Darren James Neill was jailed for assaulting Bernard Griffin, threatening to have hom shot by the LVF, and perverting the course of justice. McGowan was jailed for his part in the cover-up. A soldier and another RUC officer were fined £1000 for their part in the cover-up. The RUC officer is believed to be an Englishman who blew the whistle on his colleagues when the cover-up got out of hand. Bernard Griffin had been falsely charged with assaulting the RUC men. Pipe bombs were later planted at Mr Griffins home and explosives charges brought against him when he had begun pursuing the RUC for assault. The charges have now been dropped without explanation.

12 May

Sinn Fein MLA Martin Meehan has revealed that the RUC warned him twice in a week that his life is in imminent danger. They declined to say exactly where the threat came from.

Sinn Fein chief negociator, MP and and MLA Martin McGuinness was informed by the RUC of a death threat issued against him. The threat, from an unknown source, had been phoned through to a news room.

Residents of the Waterside Triangle in Derry have expressed concern that Clooney Terrace and the Glendermott Road are becoming no-go areas for anyone perceived to be Catholic. Recently children have been beaten up and intimidated, and an elderly resident had a window smashed.

13 May

Fears that loyalists are about to carry out attacks on nationalists in North Belfast were heightened after an Ardoyne man received a bullet through the post. Within hours of this threat, known loyalists were spotted near an ex-prisoners’ resource centre in Ardoyne. The bullet arrived by post inside a sympathy card signed by the Red Hand Defenders. This latest threat comes just two weeks after security force montages with the personal details of nationalists, mostly from the north of the city, were found in a loyalist dump in the Highfield Estate. In March a list containing the details of 27 nationalists was found in a community centre on the Shankill Road in West Belfast.

At the same time and in similar circumstances, a Tyrone nationalist also received a bullet through the post.

16 May Up to 200 masked loyalists attacked the homes of nationalists living along Craigwell Avenue in Portadown. The loyalists had assembled at Carlton Street Orange Hall, the headquarters of Portadown LOL No1. This is the lodge involved in the Drumcree stand-off. When they arrived at Craigwell, a nationalist street linking the mixed Corcrain Road to nationalist Obins Street, they went on the rampage, throwing missiles at homes and shouting sectarian abuse at residents. A number of RUC jeeps were on the scene but did not intervene. The junction between Craigwell Avenue and Corcrain Road has been the focus of loyalist disruption and attacks over a number of years and since the Drumcree stand-off tension there has escalated. The intimidation in the area is ongoing and up to 18 families have already moved out. RUC man Frankie O’Reilly was killed by a loyalist pipe bomb thrown during an Orange protest on Corcrain Road. Elizabeth O’Neill died in a sectarian pipe bomb attack on her home just a few hundred yards away.

A Nationalist resident in Castledawson, Co Derry was threatened with a knife when she challenged youths pinning Union Jacks to lampposts in the mixed estate where she lives.

The Church of Ireland (Episcopal) has launched a new initiative to tackle sectarianism, racism and other forms of hatred, called the Living With Difference programme. In March the Church linked the sectarian tension caused by Orangemen at Drumcree to the murder of Rosemary Nelson.

The families of two Catholic schoolteachers have been living in fear after their homes were petrol bombed in Finaghy, South Belfast. One family has decided to leave the area. There is increasing sectarian tension in the area in the run-up to the marching season.

19 May

A Catholic taxi driver was lucky to escape with his life after being viciously assaulted while dropping a passenger off in a loyalist district in north Belfast. After he dropped off his fare three men came running towards his car and, as he sped off, put a breeze block through his passenger window. He sustained a fractured elbow, and was said to be suffering from shock afterwards. His taxi firm has ceased all operations in the area because of the incident.

20 May

A 13 year old, Declan Lagan from Ardoyne, was attacked by up to five men who allegedly attempted to bundle him into their car. The attack ended when passing motorists stopped to intervene. He suffered lacerations to his head and legs. It is believed the UDA are behind the increase in sectarian attacks in the area. 12 months ago the same youth escaped injury when loyalist gunmen opened fire on a group of youths following an aborted attempt to shoot customers in a betting office in the area.

In a similar incident in Springfield, West Belfast, a teenager from St Mary’s College escaped after fleeing the occupants of a car who had shouted sectarian abuse at him before giving chase. The terrified youth said he believed he was lucky. "The next poor fella walking along there might not be so lucky" he said.

At round about the same time, loyalists broke a window in the Orient Bar on the Springfield Road before escaping back into the loyalist Workman’s avenue.

22 May Nationalists in mixed areas of North Belfast have had their complaints about recently erected UVF flags dismissed by the PUP. Billy Hutchinson said that he couldn’t see how people would find UVF flags to be offensive…

27 May In what was described as a huge military operation, the RUC and British army placed nationalist residents of the Garvaghy Road under what was effectively a 20 hour curfew in order to allow a "Junior" Orange parade at the bottom of the road. The parade included men in paramilitary regalia. The decision to allow the march was widely condemned since trouble had flared in previous years. Last year the RUC fired scores of plastic bullets as 700 loyalists following the parade tried to force their way onto the Garvaghy Road. Portadown District Orange Order spokesman David Jones claims Saturday’s "peaceful" march is proof the July Drumcree parade should go ahead.

30 May Nationalist residents of Mountjoy Street, which is adjacent to the loyalist Fountain estate in Derry have demanded a meeting of community leaders to put an end to sectarian verbal abuse and brick throwing over the peace line.

31 May A children’s cross-community choir concert organised by People in Harmony at St John’s Chapel on the Garvaghy Road, was disrupted by Portadown orangemen beating Lambeg drums attempting to drown it out. The concert, featuring a choir composed of Catholic and Protestant pupils from nearby schools, Flautist James Galway and singer Maire Brennan of Clannad, was attended by approximately 1000 people. High profile political figures, including the British Secretary of State Peter Mandelson and Unionist leader and Orange man David Trimble packed the hall. The concert went ahead undeterred.

After the concert, teachers, parents, children and guests headed for a reception at the Protestant Portadown College, on the Killicomaine Road. They were met by a 300 strong loyalist mob who hurled missiles and sectarian abuse while preventing families from leaving the hall. The situation became so bad that the RUC and British army were deployed. They set up check points but did not disperse the mob.

A spokesperson for the Garvaghy Road residents said: "Questions must also be asked about why the RUC did not act to prevent the demonstration and did not disperse nor arrest those involved in the illegal demonstration."

In two separate incidents bricks were thrown from the peace line at a man and his child and at a man out walking his dog along the nationalist Springfield road in Belfast. These attacks are occurring at almost a daily rate in the run-up to the proposed Orange parade on June 24. (The Parades Commission has since rerouted the preposed Tour of the North parade away from nationalist areas)



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