Sectarian terror on Springfield Road
When Mary Morrison and her partner, David Johnston, moved to the Springfield Road just 11 weeks ago, neither of them could have anticipated that they would have been driven from their home in so short a time.
But that is what happened. A loyalist gang, wielding iron bars, smashed their way into the couple's home last Saturday, 6 May, at midday. Once inside, the five-strong gang, led by a middle aged woman, threatened to kill David as he held their four-month-old baby, Hanna.
It was only after neighbours arrived at the scene that the young couple and their child were able to escape. The loyalist gang retreated back through the pedestrian gate at the `peace-line' at Workman Avenue.
Before this unwelcome intrusion, two other nationalist homes in the street had also been targeted by the gang. In one, an elderly resident living alone had been confronted.
Mary Morrison has now vowed that she will not go back into the house she wanted to make her home.
Neighbours of the couple contacted the RUC, who ``took their time coming'' and when they arrived refused to take action, even after residents pointed the attackers out. An RUC officer told residents that they couldn't do anything as the loyalists weren't in their ``operational area''. They also claimed that to act would only ``start trouble''.
The last family to live in Mary Morrison's house was also intimidated out by loyalists. On 19 September last, a gang carrying guns tried to force their way into the house at 330 Springfield Road. Prior to that, loyalists had targeted the house with paint bombs, Faced with ongoing attacks, the family moved away in February this year. Not long afterwards, Mary Morrison moved in.
Sinn Féin councillor Michael Ferguson went to the scene of Saturday's attack after a taxi driver told him it was happening. ``I was told that a young family had been taken hostage by a loyalist gang,'' said Ferguson.
``This is the latest in a long series of attacks aimed at intimidating nationalist residents off the Springfield Road.''
Attacks on the homes of nationalists living along the Springfield Road, particularly between Lanark Way and Workman Avenue, are a regular occurrence.
Both Lanark Way and Workman Avenue were favoured routes for death squads travelling across from the loyalist Shankill to carry out attacks on nationalists in the Springfield area.
The last person to be killed in the area by loyalists was Philomena Hanna, shot dead in the Springfield Road chemist's shop where she worked in April 1992. Her UDA killers escaped through the Workman Avenue `peace-line'.
Workman Avenue has now become the focus of fear for nationalists living on that stretch of the road. Every year, it is opened to facilitate an Orange Parade, the only Orange parade to go through West Belfast. Despite the fact that there is an alternative route that would keep this parade on the Shankill Road, its organisers insist on coming on to the Springfield Road.
Residents who have staged protests against this parade have, over the years, been attacked and batoned by the RUC. Hundreds of protesters were assaulted and dragged off the road in 1995. In 1996, hundreds of riot-clad RUC members sealed off the road, while in 1997 Kevin Doherty was hospitalised after an RUC squad beat him in his own home.
One of the most serious incidents arose in 1993, when the parade was rerouted. UVF man Brian `Herbie' McCallum was fatally wounded when a grenade he was about to throw exploded. His death lead to two days of rioting between loyalists and the crown forces.
According to John McGivern of the Springfield Road Residents' Action Group, the loyalists are trying to drive nationalists away from that stretch of the road: ``99% of the people living along the road don't want this parade. By terrorising nationalists away from the area, loyalists hope to secure the route for Orange parades.''
McGivern has told An Phoblacht that the attacks continued on Monday, 8 May, when gangs of loyalists threw snooker balls across the `peace line' at nationalists.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin's Tom Hartley has rubbished an article in the Belfast morning paper the Irish News in which Shankill community worker Alfie McCrory accused Sinn Féin, ``of whipping up sectarian tensions''. Hartley said McCrory was ``talking through his hat''.