Sectarian Attacks

October 1999


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 attacks is from 30 September through October 31,1999. 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.

september 30 – A Catholic man was set upon by a group of youths as he was went to collect his children from school. He was attacked at the junction of Lanark Way and Workman Avenue in west Belfast.

Days later, the Irish News reported that the man had to have plastic surgery on his ear because it had been bitten in the "vicious sectarian assault".

October 4 – A pipe bomb was thrown at a Catholic taxi driver as he travelled through the Peter’s Hill area of west Belfast. The bomb failed to explode.

The Red Hand Defenders later claimed the attack.

October 9 – Four hundred masonry nails – with the sharp ends pointing up – were found hammered into a football pitch at Tildark Avenue on the Blacks Road in Belfast. Two under-11 Catholic school teams were supposed to use the pitch before the referee spotted the nails.

Loyalists have been blamed for the nails.

October 11 – A pipe bomb was thrown at the home of a Catholic family in the Twinbrook area of west Belfast. The device was hurled through the family’s living room window but failed to explode. A second pipe bomb was found outside the home.

A couple and their two-month old baby were in the house at the time but escaped injury.

October 15 – A Catholic couple and their three children were forced from their north Belfast home after it came under attack for the second time in a week. In the early hours of the 15th, what was thought to be an explosive device was thrown at the home; it was later declared a hoax.

 

Commenting on the incident, one family member highlighted the attack’s sectarian nature.

"It’s just to try and intimidate Catholics out of the area and no other reason. We’re just a family trying to get on with our lives."

The loyalist Red Hand Defenders later claimed the attack.

 

October 16 – SDLP assembly member Carmel Hanna revealed that she received a phone warning from loyalists in regards to nails being hammered into a Belfast football pitch. According to Cllr. Hanna, "The message as received was something like: ‘We have spread hundreds of nails on the pitch at Carnamore because we don’t want Catholic teams playing there. Next time we won’t give a warning.’"

 

An article in the Andersonstown News, titled "Message of Hate", highlights the contents of a loyalist propaganda leaflet currently circulating in west Belfast. The leaflet, a photocopied four-page hate-sheet, names a number of west and north Belfast men as prominent IRA men. It also gives their personal details (including home addresses and car registration numbers.)

The leaflet notes the publicity surrounding the removal of the Union Jack from the East Antrim College of Further and Higher Education. It says:

"If they [i.e., Catholics] keep this whingeing up, we will make sure that no Catholic sets foot in the place. This applies to any other establishment as well!"

 

A number of loyalists in Larne, Co. Antrim, set upon a 53-year-old Catholic woman and her 21-year old daughter. The RUC are alleged to have ignored her pleas for help. The Irish News carried the full story of the incident a few days later. The article can be found at:

RUC ignored pleas says attack victim

 

October 16/17 – A number of homes were evacuated in the Cliftondene Crescent area of north Belfast as part of a security alert. A pipe bomb was later found and made safe.

 

October 21 – The Larne-based SDLP Assembly man, Danny O’Connor, met with a solicitor and a RUC Sub-Divisional Commander for the Larne area. Renewed fears over the sectarian tensions in the port town were raised at the meeting. Larne has been the site of a number of sectarian attacks, many of which have targeted O’Connor himself.

 

October 23 – The Andersonstown News reports that the home of SDLP Assembly member Carmel Hanna has come under attack twice in the last week. Cllr. Hanna claims that loyalists are targeting her because she has been speaking out against sectarianism in south Belfast.

Two windows in Cllr. Hanna’s house have been smashed by ball bearings. A paint bomb was thrown at her house only a week before.

 

Members of the West Belfast Football Club come under attack at an Irish Junior Cup match in Lurgan, Co. Armagh. According to a report in the Andersonstown News, when the team "took to the pitch sectarian abuse was hurled at them from spectators on the sidelines, most of them the worse for wear with drink."

The report went on to say that the match was played "in an atmosphere of extreme tension – violence eventually and inevitably erupted." The spectators – "some 60 loyalist extremists" – joined in the violence and the players from the West Belfast club were outnumbered five-to-one.

The match was abandoned and players were shepherded into the dressing rooms. The West Belfast club then hoped to quickly board their bus and make their way out of Lurgan but found that the tyres on their bus had been slashed.

October 25 – Paul Rodney Hobson, sentenced to four years for his part in the sectarian murder of a young Catholic man, lost an appeal against his sentence.

Robert Hamill was beaten unconscious in a sectarian attack in Portadown town centre in April of 1997. He never regained consciousness and died days later from his injuries.

Up to 30 loyalists were involved in the attack on Hamill and his friend. Only six men were charged in connection with his murder – only one of the men, Paul Hobson, went on to face trial. Hobson went on to be convicted of causing an affray; he was acquitted of murder

The judges in the appeal case said they did not regard the sentence of four years as excessive.

October 26 – Two men were arrested near Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, after the RUC discovered explosives in their van. Army technical experts then carried out a controlled explosion on the vehicle.

The men are thought to be involved with dissident loyalists; the van contained a pipe bomb and two hand grenades.

October 27 – Loyalists target Liam Shannon, a well-known republican from west Belfast. According to the Irish News a "bomb, which was attached to a container of fuel and packed around with a large quantity of six-inch nails, was found at his front door at La Salle Park when he and his wife returned home shortly before midnight."

The Samaritans received a phone call that evening claiming the device. The caller also claimed that, "Today, tomorrow and forever – this won’t be the last."

A number of security cameras overlook the street on which Mr. Shannon lives. The RUC are currently studying the video footage in hopes of catching the would-be loyalist killers.

The home and a car belonging to a mixed couple living in Bushmills, Co. Antrim, came under attack. Paint bombs were thrown through the living room window of the couple’s house and sectarian slogans were daubed on the front wall of the house as well. The windscreen of the couple’s car was smashed and flammable liquid was poured inside and set alight. It was the second time in 12 months that the couple had come under attack.

Commenting on the attack, the SDLP’s Sean Farren said that the recent upsurge in sectarian attacks in the north Antrim area is cause for "considerable concern."

October 28 – The main story of the day’s Irish News concerns the arrests following Tuesday night’s pipe bomb discovery in Dungannon. One of those arrested is a fundamentalist Protestant preacher. The article can be found at:

Pastor arrested over pipe bomb discovery

along with an accompanying article on loyalist sectarian violence at:

The blood on the dissidents’ bible of hatred

October 29 – Garfield Gilmour, a 24-year old salesman from Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, was convicted in a Belfast crown court for the murders of Richard Quinn (11), Mark Quinn (10) and Jason Quinn (9.)

The three young brothers died when fire swept through their home after a petrol bomb attack. The judge argued that Gilmour "aided and abetted" the attack that was carried out by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). Gilmour drove the getaway car.

The attack occurred on the night of the Twelfth of July 1998 – at the height of the summer’s crisis at Drumcree. It received world-wide attention because of the horrific nature of the hate crime.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) still refuses to acknowledge that the attack was sectarian; the Orange Order still refuses to acknowledge that the attack was connected to the ongoing crisis at Drumcree.

The following articles on the tragedy appeared in the Irish News on October 30th.

Sickening murders that shocked world

Driver knew of UVF’s evil intent


Other issues dealing with sectarianism:

On the 7th of October, the Irish News ran an article titled "Taylor warns of collapse of Good Friday deal".

The article prompted the following response from the PFC:

Press Release… For Immediate release

7.10.1999

Taylor Statement "Inflammatory but sadly consistent"

A spokesperson for the Pat Finucane Centre has slammed comments made by John Taylor MP which predicted the collapse of the Good Friday Agreement and suggested that "loyalist paramilitaries now have the capability to hit back, not only in Northern Ireland but in the Republic, in a much more extensive manner than before."

A centre spokesperson added, "Mr Taylor’s comments, in particular the suggestion that loyalist paramilitaries might target the south, are inflammatory but entirely consistent with similar views expressed in the past. John Taylor MP has actually suggested that loyalist paramilitaries should attack the South.

In August 1979 he said that, "If the leadership of loyalist paramilitaries find it absolutely impossible to refrain from renewing action on the ground …It should be directed to targets within the Republic of Ireland." (Irish Times, 31 August 1979)

His comment that loyalist paramilitaries might "hit back…in a much more extensive manner than before" begs an obvious question. What could be more extensive than the murder of almost 1000 people?

The fact that Catholic civilians were regarded as ‘legitimate targets’ is hardly surprising since, as John Taylor told a Young Unionist conference on September 3 1991, "…the harsh reality is that as one walks down the street or goes into work, one out of three Roman Catholics one meets is either a supporter of murder or worse still a murderer." (Fortnight, October 1991)

This perception may well have been shared by the loyalist killers who walked into the Falls Road council depot on the same day and shot dead 24 year old Seamus Sullivan -- ‘legitimate target’ and Catholic civilian.

Later that month John Taylor suggested, "Generally, the people who loyalist paramilitaries are targeting are active members of organisations which support the IRA bombing and killing campaign, such as members of Sinn Fein." (17/9/93)

Forty Catholic civilians, none of them members of any political organisation, died in the same year that these comments were made. According to Mr Taylor this phenomenon, the killing of Catholics, "in a perverse way…may be helpful because they are now beginning to appreciate more clearly the fear that has existed within the Protestant community…" (Irish News, 9.9.1993)

Young male Catholics have suffered disproportionately over the past thirty years. They have no need to "appreciate more clearly the fear that has existed."

Over the years John Taylor MP has issued a series of inflammatory and sectarian statements. In so doing he has damaged unionism and brought shame on himself.



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