Loyalist gun attacks
BY LAURA FRIEL
Northern nationalists remain convinced that loyalists, more specifically the UDA, are behind the latest series of gun attacks, which have left two men dead and two more seriously injured.
The latest victim, a Protestant taxi driver, remains critical in a Derry hospital after two loyalist gunmen opened fire when he answered a bogus call to the loyalist Lincoln Courts area of Waterside in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Raymond Millar, a father of five in his mid 30s from the Newbuildings area of Derry city, was hit in the chest as he attempted to flee from his car in what was intended to be a sectarian attack. The gunmen fired four shots into the taxi and a number of other shots struck a nearby wall.
The loyalist gunmen, who had telephoned a Catholic taxi firm from the Top of the Hill area of the Waterside, had assumed the driver was a Catholic. As it happened, the taxi company had passed the request for a taxi onto another firm, which employs mainly Protestants. The injured man was rushed to Altnagelvin hospital, where he was later described as ``critical but stable''. He remains in intensive care.
A second taxi driver is also still fighting for his life in a Belfast hospital after a loyalist gunman fired six shots at close range into his vehicle as it was parked outside a Catholic taxi firm in the Old Park area of North Belfast.
Paul Scullion (22), a Catholic from Ardoyne, was chatting over the radio to a colleague on Wednesday, 6 December, when a motorcycle pulled up alongside his vehicle and one of two men opened fire, shooting the taxi man several times through the car window. The wounded driver attempted to flee but collapsed after opening his car door.
The motorcycle collided with a car as the loyalist hit squad sped away towards the nearby UDA stronghold of the lower Oldpark Road area. It was later seen abandoned in the loyalist Hillview estate.
The severely injured man was given the Last Rites by a local priest called to the scene. Paramedics fought to stem the blood flow before rushing him to the nearby Mater hospital, where he remains in a critical condition.
The North Belfast attack came within minutes of the killing of another Catholic worker. A building contractor was shot dead as he worked on a site in the loyalist Monkstown estate near Newtownabbey.
At around 4pm on Wednesday 6 December, Gary Moore, a 30-year-old father of two from Dungiven, was working in Downpatrick Road when two loyalist gunmen singled him out and shot him at close range in the head and body. The Catholic workman died at the scene.
Twenty four hours earlier a Protestant taxi driver, Trevor Kell, was shot dead when he answered a call in a loyalist enclave in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast. The 35-year-old father of three had only begun working for a taxi firm based in the loyalist lower Crumlin Road a few days before the fatal shooting.
Initial reports, linking the death with the ongoing loyalist feud, were later dismissed by the RUC Chief Ronnie Flanagan, who told the BBC's Hearts and Minds programme that he ``believed'' republicans were responsible for the killing but admitted it was a belief based on no particular evidence. ``It is too early to say,'' said Flanagan.
Painting a tit-for-tat scenario, the RUC Chief went on to rationalise subsequent attacks as loyalist ``reprisals''. Loyalists had shot two Catholics on Wednesday night believing republicans were responsible for the murder of a Protestant taxi driver, Flanagan was in ``no doubt''.
Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly warned that ``groundless assumptions'' by Ronnie Flanagan would put Catholic lives in danger. ``Finger pointing after the killing of Trevor Kell led directly to the murder of Gary Moore and the attempted murder of Paul Scullion,'' said Kelly.
Commenting on the Kell killing, Progressive Unionist Party Assembly member Billy Hutchinson blamed British military intelligence. He believed the Protestant taxi driver had been killed as part of a dirty tricks operation sanctioned by the British military intelligence community to destabilise the peace process.
``Whoever carried out this murder set out to create panic,'' he said, ``and that is exactly what happened.'' The PUP man said the fact that no getaway car had been found afterwards and no one in the area saw anything was very suspicious. ``That doesn't happen unless military intelligence is involved,'' said Hutchinson.
Four years ago, ten Catholics were killed in the run up to Christmas. These killings were initially denied by one loyalist grouping and later claimed by another. The RUC colluded in these lies in a deliberate attempt to muddy the waters and let groups who claimed to be on ceasefire off the hook.
Early this summer, the UDA carried out a number of attacks on Protestant homes in West Belfast and tried to blame republicans. Again the RUC colluded in this lie, saying that a car used in the attack was spotted going into Ardoyne. This was later exposed as false.
``People need to beware of dirty tricks in all this,'' said Adams. ``These attacks fit the agenda of the `No' camp within the British establishment whose goal is to prevent change and create a vacuum which, inevitably is filled with violence. I would call on people to remain calm and vigilant. We are living in dangerous times.
``For a long time we have been warning people to be vigilant because history shows us that when loyalists, unionists or the British government are under pressure, it is ordinary nationalists who suffer.''
Sinister Tyrine break-in by British soldiers
Sinn Féin representative for Fermanagh and South Tyrone has criticised the upsurge in recent British Army activity in the area.
Gildernew was speaking after a man from Killeshil, near Dungannon, came across British soldiers breaking into the office of his business.
The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, had a close relative killed by loyalists a number of years ago in an attack where evidence of crown forces collusion with the killers was found.
Michelle Gildernew told An Phoblacht that the man was driving past his premises last Tuesday, 5 December, when he noticed a number of people around the office. As he got closer, he saw that the people were British soldiers and they were trying to break in through an office window.
``He challenged the British soldiers and asked for the officer in charge of the patrol but they just rushed off'', said Gildernew. This activity, she said, ``fits into a wider picture of increased British military activity in Tyrone and Fermanagh. Nationalist areas of Tyrone have been swamped with crown forces day and night over the past number of weeks.
``Ex-POWs and republicans in general are being harassed at checkpoints, a farmer from Benburb was followed by a low flying helicopter for up to two hours and in an incident in Aughnacloy, British soldiers threatened to kill a man.
``British military activity has increased almost to pre-ceasefire levels.''
Sinn Féin is currently compiling a dossier on harassment in the area which will be presented to the Dublin government and various human rights bodies. Anyone who would like to report similar incidents should contact the Sinn Féin Advice Centre in Irish Street, Dungannon on 028 8772 2776.