Ballynahinch: A sectarian time bomb
BY PEADAR WHELAN
Seven-year-old Nathan stands among the shards of broken glass from the front window of his house in Loughside, Ballynahinch. He is holding two of the stones used by a 20-strong loyalist gang that attacked his Ballynahinch home in the early hours of Saturday morning, 13 January.
The loyalists targeted Nathan's home because it is a Catholic household and the latest home they have attacked in the concerted campaign they are waging against nationalists in the small County Down town.
Luckily no one was injured in this attack although Nathan's 15-year-old brother, who had fallen asleep on the sofa, believes he had a narrow escape.
Nathan's parents, who do not wish to be named, stress the point that had the loyalists attacked with petrol or pipe bombs, as they have been doing in other parts of the North, then they may well be burying their eldest son this week.
According to the nationalist couple, the loyalist who orchestrated the attack was behind a much more serious attempt to terrorise them last May.
In that assault on their home windows were broken and the family car was damaged when the gang tried to get into the house. ``They surrounded the house and put all the windows in. I called the RUC three times and it took them 25 minutes to arrive. We could all have been dead in that time,'' said the woman of the house.
Both parents expressed their real concern for Nathan. At seven he is too young to know what is going on but he is also deaf and wears a hearing aid. He is autistic.
``After the attack last May, Nathan asked what happened and we told him that `bad boys' done it,'' said his father. ``For nights afterwards it was difficult to get him over to sleep. He would sit on the bed rocking himself saying, `bad boys done it, bad boys done it'.''
In the months since last May, the whole family has experienced both sectarian abuse at work, in the case of the father, or threats, both verbal and physical, in the case of the mother. Their eldest son had a narrow escape when a gang of loyalist men wielding baseball bats and screwdrivers chased him through the town. He managed to outrun them.
Sinn Féin spokesperson for the area, Francie Braniff, has catalogued many of the sectarian attacks that have occurred in the recent past and intends presenting his dossier to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin.
``We are attempting to highlight these attacks and the naked sectarianism behind them but we also want to put it on record that the RUC has done little or nothing to prevent them. The situation is that loyalists are attempting to make Ballynahinch a no go area for nationalists. The Langley Road soccer pitches are an example of how a community facility has been made off limits for nationalists. The kerbs have been painted red, white and blue and UDA flags are flying all around it,'' said Braniff.
``Sinn Féin is determined to combat this sectarianism.''