Sectarian Attacks

May 2001


The following list of sectarian incidents and attacks is from 01 through 31 May 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 April 2001 is also available. We apologise for the delay in the publication of this list, which was caused by the pressures of work currently being carried out by the PFC. The June list will be available early next week.

May 1, Tuesday.
Two teenage Catholic schoolchildren were attacked in the Whitewell/Serpentine area of north Belfast as they made their way home from school. Local residents said that the gang of up to eight youths who attacked them had been questioned by the RUC only moments before. (IN)

An 'elaborate hoax' car bomb was found underneath a car belonging to a nationalist family. The Whitewell Road was sealed off for five hours while the security forces dealt with the device. Sources from the area say that loyalists regularly damage cars on the corner of Ligoniel Road and Ballysillan Road. Recently, loyalist youths also attacked the home of an elderly woman in the area. Sinn Fein representative Eoin O'Broin said: "In the case of the elderly woman, loyalists came into the area and broke a number of windows in her home. As the woman suffers with Alzheimer's Disease, this attack was particularly horrendous." (NBelfN, RM)

May 2, Wednesday.
Northern Irish Education Minister, Martin McGuinness, launched a new video aimed at young people as part of a drive to stamp out racism. (IN)

A quantity of ammunition and a number of improvised explosive devices were found in the Reahill Road area of Ballyclare. (RUC)

May 3, Thursday.
The Irish News, after a page one headline which read "What is preventing an inquiry into Finucane?" carried a series of articles detailing the claims made about collusion involving the British military undercover unit FRU, the RUC's Special Branch, and loyalist paramilitaries.

The articles followed allegations made in a UTV Insight programme by former RUC Special Branch Detective Sergeant Jonty Browne that Special Branch had threatened to arrest him and his 14-year-old son. "When they start to threaten your children you've got to step back and ask yourself is it worth it," he said. The program also detailed allegations that Special Branch kept files on all RUC officers, quoted senior officers saying that they feared Special Branch more than they feared the Provisional IRA or the Real IRA, and carried a direct quote from a retired chief superintendent who told the program makers: "If I die in a 'road accident' I have already told my wife to ensure that there is a full investigation". Detective Sergeant Browne also told the programme that a taped interview with a loyalist informer, in which the informer confessed to murdering Pat Finucane, had been substituted with a later tape in which there was no confession. Among other allegations included in the program were those that security force members had brought UFF/UDA gunmen on a scouting mission to the Finucane home, as well as supplying the intelligence and weapon with which he was assassinated; that a decision had been made at a senior level that the RUC should block an investigation into the killing following the taped confession, and that MI5 had been centrally involved in drawing up the guidelines which controlled the interaction between the Special Branch and the rest of the RUC.

The Irish News also reported claims that in order to protect its agents within the UDA/UFF, British Intelligence had failed to prevent a major loyalist arms shipment into the north of Ireland, and that a key FRU agent within a loyalist organisation had been linked to nearly 100 murders and conspiracies to murder. It also reported the claim made by a former FRU member, who uses the pseudonym Martin Ingram, that the Metropolitan Police investigation into the murder (dubbed Stephens III) had identified "institutionalised collusion" with loyalists.

Pat Finucane's family are boycotting the Metropolitan Police investigation, led by Commissioner John Stevens, because the criminal investigation has effectively delayed the establishment of a public inquiry, without being able to guarantee a satisfactory result. The findings of two earlier investigations into security force collusion, carried out by John Stevens, have never been made public. The Irish News also reported the speculation that the case against former UDA man William Stobie, arrested by the Stevens team in connection with the murder, would collapse after a key witness, former journalist Neil Mulholland, revealed that he would withdraw his evidence on health grounds. William Stobie has in the past claimed that he had warned his RUC handlers in advance of the planned murder of Pat Finucane. (IN, AN, RM, PFC)

James Speers, the UDA's alleged leader in Glengormley, took young recruits into the Ulster Young Militants on "blooding exercises", a Belfast court was told. Speers, who denies attempting to cause serious injury to a Catholic man by attempting to drive over him as he left St Enda's GAA club in Glengormley late on March 31, was denied bail. The incident outside St Enda's took place only a few minutes after, and less than half a mile from the spot where Trevor Lowry was fatally injured in an attack in which he was mistaken for a Catholic. He died three days later. (See April 1, 6, 14) A youth was also charged in connection with the evening's incidents. (IN)

May 5, Saturday.
North Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly Member Gerry Kelly called for the NIO (Northern Ireland Office) to supply nationalist homes along the interface on Alliance Avenue with laminated glass to protect them from attack. Over the previous number of months houses along Alliance Avenue have been stoned, petrol-bombed and pipe bombed in attacks believed to have been orchestrated by the UDA. Similar attacks have been carried out on houses in North Queen Street, Carrickhill and Parkmount. (NBelfN, CW)

It was reported in the Irish News that a two page press release from the Orange Order calling for supporters to mark the 1000th day of the Drumcree protest appeared on an LVF-linked website within hours of being released to the media. The report read: "Portadown District Lodge spokesman David Jones said it was beyond his control what happened to a release once it had been released to the media... Asked if LVF supporters were not invited to the event, he replied: 'We are not saying any group should or should not be there. What we are saying is that it should be done in a peaceful manner.'" The protest, which had been postponed from the end of March because of foot and mouth disease, has had a number of restrictions placed on it by the Parades' Commission. The main restriction was that it would not be allowed down the Garvaghy Road on the anniversary of the death of republican hunger striker Bobby Sands. (IN)

300 loyalists marched in Portadown town-centre as far as the RUC lines placed to prevent them from marching down the Garvaghy Road. At the security cordon there were some scuffles as some Orangemen insulted RUC officers. Orange leader Harold Gracey, while addressing the group, urged the RUC to search their consciences about upholding bans on Orange marches. "We all know where you come from," he said, " you come from the Protestant community, the vast majority of you come from the Protestant community and it is high time that you supported your own Protestant people." David Jones, Portadown District Orange spokesman defended Mr Gracey's comments, adding that they weren't inflammatory. (IN)

Supporters of Johnny Adair, the UDA leader returned to jail last September over his actions at Drumcree last July and during last summer's loyalist feud, have vowed to legally challenge the decision by the NIO not to grant him parole this summer. John White of the UDP, who is a close friend of Johnny Adair, said he believed the decision not to grant Adair parole was an attempt to prevent him from attending Drumcree this year. (IN, NBelfN)

May 7, Monday.
Larne SDLP Assembly Member Danny O'Connor blamed the UDA's youth-wing, the Ulster Young Militants (UYM), for the latest in a string of attacks on the home he shares with his elderly parents. "They will not shut me up. We are staying here, we're not going anywhere" he said. In the latest attack, bricks and stones were hurled at his home, but did not penetrate the recently installed bullet-proof glass. (IN, RM)

Loyalists from the Shankill area breached the peace line again on the upper Springfield Road, attacking Catholic residents and property with slates and concrete blocks taken from building sites on Workman's Avenue. One woman was injured in the latest of what residents say are now nightly incidents. Sinn Féin's Tom Hartley said he would be seeking another meeting with the NIO to discuss the issue before it escalated even further in the summer. Springfield residents have already asked the NIO to have the Gate at Workman's Avenue closed and the wall at the peace line built higher. (AN, IN, CW)

May 8, Tuesday.
Harry McErlean, a north Belfast nationalist, received more than 20 stitches after an attack by four loyalists outside his Duncairn Gardens home. He had been approaching his house when a car pulled up and the four attackers jumped out. Local sources say that this was just the latest in a series of vicious attacks on nationalists by loyalists in the New Lodge/Duncairn Gardens area. Mr McErlean, who had stopped walking down the New Lodge Road as a precaution against the attacks, has said he will now leave the area. (NBelfN, CW)

May 9, Wed.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission referred the case of ex-UDR man Neil Latimer to the court of appeal. Latimer and three UDR colleagues ("the UDR four") were jailed in 1986 for the 1983 murder of Armagh Catholic Adrian Carroll. His three colleagues had their convictions overturned in 1992 but Latimer's was upheld. (IN)

Following the publication of a report that found that Protestants felt they were being discriminated against in Derry the DUP's Gregory Campbell accused Derry City Council of treating Protestants like second class citizens. The claims were dismissed by the City's Sinn Féin Mayor, Cathal Crumley who said that it was a matter of perception rather than reality. Mr Campbell responded that "It is always the people who are the subject of discrimination who need to be asked... If you ask the whites in South Africa if there was any discrimination they would say that there was none, as opposed to the blacks who were discriminated against." (IN)

An unexploded pipe bomb was defused after it was found in the garden of a house in Banbridge. (RUC)

May 10, Thursday.
The PUP's Billy Hutchinson claimed that more than 40 loyalists in Belfast had
been visited by the RUC and warned that their lives were at risk from republicans. (IN)

May 12, Saturday.
In east Belfast nationalist youths assaulted three Australian tourists near the Catholic Short Strand enclave, having mistaken them for loyalists. (IN, BBC)

In the Springfield Road area in West Belfast, loyalists threw petrol bombs, golf balls and stones over the "peace line" at nationalist homes. Loyalists in a car attempted to abduct a Catholic man near Lanark way. A family, whose car had been spun off the road in a hit and run accident, were attacked by brick throwing loyalists from across the peace line when they got out of their car. Residents, who reported nightly attacks from across the peace line, blamed the UDA for the attacks. The UDP's John White denied the claims. (IN, AN, CW)

A number of people were injured after rival nationalist and loyalist crowds clashed at Woodhouse Street in Portadown. Garvaghy Road Resident's Coalition spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith said the violence erupted when a group of 30 loyalists attacked a Catholic-owned public house in Woodhouse Street. One Catholic man suffered serious head injuries during the attack.(CW, RUC, RM)

A Catholic man in his early 30s was seriously injured after a loyalist gang attacked him outside the Park Hall Inn in Antrim. The injured man, who was born in Antrim but now lives in ngland, had returned to the town to visit friends when the attack occurred.

May 13, Sunday.
Loyalists clashed with nationalists on the edge of the nationalist enclave of the Short Strand. RUC in riot gear were deployed to keep rival factions apart as they fought running battles at the junction of the loyalist Thistle Court and the nationalist Madrid and Bryson Streets. Political leaders from across the spectrum appealed to community leaders on both sides to hold talks to reduce the violence. The attacks took place close to where the three Australian tourists had been attacked on the previous day. (IN, BBC, RUC)

A man was injured in a petrol bomb attack on his home in Nelson Drive, in the Waterside in Derry. (RUC)

A couple escaped uninjured after a pipe bomb was put through the door of their north Belfast home. The device caused damage to the front of the house. (RUC, BBC, CW)

May 14, Monday.
As trouble in the Short Strand area continued into the early hours of the morning, a gunman appeared in the Loyalist Tower Street and fired what are now believed to have been blank shots at a group of nationalists who had gathered at the interface. Later, in the evening, nationalists and loyalists clashed during a five-hour period. Local sources say the trouble started when a gang of 100 loyalists attacked nationalist homes with golf balls, bottles and stones. Sinn Féin representative for the Short Strand, Joe O'Donnell, said that violence in the area had been increasing for a number of months. See the PFC's September '00, January '01 and February '01 reports. (IN, BBC, CW, PFC, RUC)

May 15, Tuesday.
Archbishop Robin Eames, Church of Ireland (Anglican/Episcopal) Primate, urged people in Portadown to confront sectarianism with a Christian voice. (Drumcree Church, the centre of the marching controversy, is Church of Ireland.) Dr Eames has in the past expressed his discomfort at the Church being used by Drumcree Orangemen for purposes other than worship. Amid much criticism the Drumcree rector, Reverend Pickering, disregarded a Church of Ireland Synod motion in 1999 calling for him to withdraw his invitation to the Drumcree Orangemen to worship in his church. (IN, IT, PFC)

A nationalist woman and her elderly mother, both from the Short Strand enclave in east Belfast, were attacked with eggs and flour by a group of loyalists on the Newtownards Road. Nationalists have said that they now fear having to run a gauntlet of loyalists in order to go about their daily business. (IN)

May 16, Wednesday.
Loyalists threw a pipe bomb into the living room of the Lothair Avenue home of a Catholic couple and their 6 children in Newington, north Belfast. The device exploded a split second after the couple's 20 year old son escaped the room. He had been on the phone to a friend from a cross-community group when the device was thrown into the room. The family said that they were chosen for no other reason than that they were 'a soft target'. Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly condemned the NIO for not installing toughened glass windows in at-risk houses. (IN, NBelfN)

The family of Pat Finucane renewed their call for an independent public inquiry after an admission by an ex-member of the FRU, now a serving RUC officer, that he had helped loyalists set up Catholic targets at the time of Pat Finucane's murder. The admission, by the officer referred to only as 'Geoff' was contained in a new book, 'Brits: The War against the IRA' by journalist Peter Taylor. (RM)

May 17, Thursday.
The Equality Commission found that Catholics are still twice as likely to be discriminated against in the workplace as Protestants. The finding was based on the numbers of Catholics and Protestants bringing claims against their employers, (IN)

Loyalists pipe-bombed a Catholic home in Mossvale Park in the Ballysally estate in Coleraine. The device, which was thrown through the kitchen window, did not explode. Five minutes later, in the Harpur's Hill estate, a pipe bomb packed with copper screws exploded in a house where a Catholic woman and her four children were sleeping. They escaped uninjured. (IN, RUC)

May 18, Friday.
Two Newtownabbey men were given one and two year jail sentences for the possession of two pipe bombs in August 2000. (IN)

May 19, Saturday.
A sympathy card containing two bullets was delivered to the Waterside home of Derry SDLP Assembly Member Annie Courtney. The threat is thought to have come from loyalists. Ms Courtney said she now feared for her life. (IN, DJ, LS, DN, BBC)

Sinn Féin election workers, who had gone to put up posters in Glengormley, north Belfast, were turned away by a gang of men. See May 3 (IN)

May 20, Sunday.
Catholic residents of Bombay Street, near the Springfield Road on the Falls/Shankill interface, came under sustained attack from stone throwing loyalists. (see May 7, 12) When residents complained that the RUC reacted too slowly, west Belfast RUC Chief Brian Cargo told SDLP councillor Margaret Walsh that his men had reacted slowly because they were on their tea break when they were called out. (AN, IN)

A 40 strong gang of loyalists carrying bats, hatchets, bottles and stones confronted Sinn Féin election workers, who had returned to put up posters in Glengormley. 25 RUC Land Rovers arrived on the scene, sealing off the Hightown Road and preventing the election workers from putting up posters. Sinn Féin workers then complained that, instead of preventing the loyalists from tearing down their posters, the RUC used their batons and dogs in an attempt to force the Sinn Féin workers away. The stand-off lasted for four hours. See above, May 3 and 19. (IN, AN)

Two coaches carrying GAA supporters back from a GAA Ulster Championship match were attacked in separate incidents in Armagh and Portadown. (IN)

May 21, Monday.
Loyalists set fire to a west Belfast hostel for single mothers, leaving more than 14 mothers and 20 children homeless. The hostel in Cupar Way on the upper Springfield Road, has a history of being targeted by loyalists. Sinn Féin councillor Fra McCann said that the attack would never have happened had the NIO carried through on its assurances, given last year, that security on the interface with the loyalist Shankill would be tightened. See May 7, 12, 20 (IN, BBC, AN, RUC)

Loyalists attacked the Sinn Féin party offices and defaced the Bobby Sands memorial in Enniskillen. (IN, RM)

A family escaped injury after a petrol bomb attack on their home in the Forthriver area of Belfast. The attack occurred at around 2.50am and caused extensive damage to the house. (RUC, BBC)

May 22, Tuesday.
A 15-year-old boy threw a pipe bomb into a Catholic bar, and paint bombs at two Catholic churches and the home of an SDLP councillor in Ballymena because he "hated fenians" Belfast high court was told. When the RUC had arrested him for the pipe bomb attack he was found to be in possession of a hammer. Asked why he had the hammer he replied "because fenians do my head in and you boys [RUC] do nothing about it". (IN)

Sinn Fein Assembly Member Martin Meehan was told twice by the RUC within the space of an hour that specific death threats had been made against him. These are the latest in a number of threats and actual attacks against Martin Meehan and his family. (RM)

May 23, Wednesday.
Catholic children in Kilkeel were told by other children to stay away from a new play area because they were "fenians". (IN)

The RUC found the names of 80 nationalists from Counties Derry and Tyrone, including that of Mid-Ulster Assembly Member Francie Molloy, on a computer disk belonging to a man already facing charges of having information likely to be of use to terrorists. While the RUC has informed the people named of the fact that they are on the list, nationalists feel strongly that they should have been told more, including any information known about the organisation that compiled the list. "Even when a number of solicitors contacted the RUC they refused to give out any information," said Molloy. "Indeed, their attitude has already prompted a number of official complaints to the ombudsman."
(DN, RM)

May 26, Saturday.
Loyalists pipe bombed the Ballymoney home of Scottish woman Jacqueline Curry, her partner and two children. They did it "because she was an outsider," said Ms Curry. (IN, RUC)

May 27, Sunday.
Arsonists set fire to the car of Sinn Féin election worker Thomas Guiney in Ballycastle, north Antrim. The arsonists also issued him with a death threat, the third in two weeks. A group of loyalists, calling themselves the 'young defenders', who are linked to the UFF/UDA, have been reported as driving around the Ballymena area and threatening people. John Kelly, the Sinn Féin candidate for whom Thomas Guiney had been canvassing, called on local MP, Ian Paisley of the DUP, to condemn the attack. The SDLP's Seán Farren had already condemned the attack. (IN)

Rioting broke out between the RUC and Portadown nationalists after the RUC enforced a Junior Orange Order parade along a nationalist section at the bottom of the Garvaghy road. The clashes began at 6:30 pm after the Orangemen paraded, having been told by the Parades' Commission not to march after 5:30. The RUC claimed to have fired 6 plastic bullets. Local sources claim up to 15 were fired. This was the last use of the old-style plastic bullets before the introduction of the new and even more deadly version, the L21A1 on June 1. (IN, CW)

St Joseph's Catholic Church in Magheragall, near Lisburn, which was burned to the ground by loyalists three years ago, re-opened its doors after extensive refurbishment. (IN)

Stephen Manners, former commander of the UVF in east Belfast who was jailed for his part in the brutal sectarian murder in 1992 of mother of two Anne-Marie Smyth, was shot dead in what was believed to be a loyalist feud-related attack. Frank Smyth, the father of Anne-Marie said, "If he has a family, and he must have someone connected to him, I understand the pain they will be going through now."

May 28, Monday.
Arsonists destroyed the Wolfe Tone GAA Club in Killyleagh, Co Down. It was the third time that arsonists had attacked the club, which was regularly used by people from all sides of the community. (IN, RUC)

The New York Times threw its weight behind the call for an international judicial inquiry into the murders of solicitors Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson. In an editorial it specifically questioned the value of the police investigations into the cases by English police investigators John Stevens and Colin Port respectively. The call was welcomed by Pat's brother, Martin Finucane. (IN)

In Drumahoe, on the outskirts of Derry, lampposts along a new housing development were festooned with loyalist emblems. Nationalist representatives asked their unionist counterparts to have the flags removed and to ensure that people moving into the area could live free from harassment or intimidation. (IN)

Shaun Alexander Leighton, from Ballymoney, was alleged to have been found in possession of computer equipment with the names and personal details of up to 700 alleged republicans. Some of the information was last accessed as recently as February 2001, the RUC told a Belfast court. (IN)

A young couple and their two-week-old baby, and a family of six, were targeted in two separate petrol bomb attacks in Ballynahinch. The young couple had previously received a threat from loyalists in the town telling them to "get out or get burned out." (RM)

Two men were seen throwing a pipe bomb at a house in Bath Street in Portrush. The device failed to explode. A second unexploded device was later found at Glenmanus Road in the town. (RUC)

May 30, Wednesday.
The Grand Lodge of the Orange Order issued a fresh call for a public inquiry into the 1997 assassination of Billy Wright. (IN)


AN:   Andersonstown News
BBC:    BBC radio and television news, BBC online, Radio Foyle
CW:   Local community workers
DJ:   Derry Journal
DN:    Derry News
IN:   Irish News
IT:   Irish Times
LS:   Londonderry Sentinel
NBelfN:   North Belfast News
PFC:    Pat Finucane Centre
RM:   RM Distribution
RUC:   RUC website

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