Spate of sectarian attacks
A series of sectarian attacks over the weekend has seen three Catholic churches, a GAA hall and a Catholic owned business burnt out in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of Belfast.
These attacks, carried out across the North, coming as they do against the background of a renewed loyalist feud in the Tiger's Bay/York Road area of North Belfast, send out a clear warning to the nationalist population to be on their guard.
This threat is underlined by the fact that in Derry a Catholic family received a bullet, accompanied by a threat, in the post while a man from Drumaness in County Down had a shotgun cartridge, with the letters UVF engraved on it, pushed through his door.
Of the three chapels attacked, St John the Evangelists in Coleraine in north County Derry was at the centre of a Harryville type pickets over Drumcree. Last week, bottles of blue paint were thrown at the church building.
In the days previous to the paint bomb attack, a Catholic man was shot and wounded in Coleraine. That attack on Wednesday, 25 October, left the man with bullet wounds to his upper legs. That attack was the third he had suffered in recent months.
Two Catholic churches were attacked in the early hours of Sunday morning, 29 October. St Mary's Oratory in Newbuildings outside Derry and Our Lady Queen of Peace at Dunmurry on the outskirts of Belfast were attacked, with up to £40,000 worth of damage carried out on the Dunmury building's stained glass windows.
The attack on the chapel is the latest in a series of attacks against Catholics in the Dunmurry area over recent weeks.
On Monday 23 October, one of the last Catholic-owned businesses in Dunmurry village was torched, completely gutting the building. Sinn Féin councillor Paul Butler refuted RUC claims that this attack was not sectarian. ``This is the culmination of a series of attacks on Catholic owned businesses,'' he said. ``Over the last couple of years, the UDA have been particularly active in the area and have been behind numerous attacks on Catholics. That this Catholic-owned premises was destroyed in the way it was indicates that it was a well planned operation''. The attackers forced their way in through the rear of Express Shoe Repairs at Kingsway and poured petrol around the shop before setting it alight.
Butler also expressed his concern at a recent spate of attacks on Catholic schoolchildren returning home from Rathmore Grammar School in Dunmurry. ``In one of the most recent attacks two pupils were wounded,'' he said. ``One had glass in his eyes and doctors are concerned that there may be long term damage to his sight. A second pupil received 10 stitches to a head wound.''
Just hours before Our Lady's was attacked, a taxi driver from Dale Cabs was stoned by loyalists as he drove past the bottom of Twinbrook, near Dunmurry village.
Attacks in Derry
St Mary's Oratory in Newbuildings, outside Derry on the Waterside, was wrecked on Sunday morning. In this latest attack on the chapel, the Tabernacle was torn off the wall and the altar overturned. Several Stations of the Cross were wrecked and a statue of Our Lady was thrown over.
According to local people, the attackers forced their way into the chapel by breaking in through reinforced glass at the side of the building.
The local Catholic school in Newbuildings was also attacked at the weekend and had four windows smashed.
Earlier last week, also in the Waterside area of Derry, a young Catholic family received a bullet in the post. The bullet, which arrived in the post last Wednesday, 25 October, was accompanied by a letter threatening the man's brother. The man who received the bullet has been targeted in the past by loyalists. He said the family had to flee their Clooney home due to years of loyalist intimidation and his father quit the home just four months ago, ``due to a concerted sectarian campaign''.
``My wife is very upset'', said the man, ``it is very disturbing. They got their way when we moved out of Clooney - we left because of intimidation. We thought that we would be safe and thought that there would be no more, we had Protestant friends where we lived, but we had to move because we were living in fear. We thought we would be safe here but this is how it turned out.''
Speaking about the situation, Sinn Féin councillor Lynn Fleming said the attacks highlight ``the sectarianism within some elements of unionism''.
Fire damage to GAA hall
The changing rooms of the Roger Casement GAA club in Portglenone in County Antrim were gutted and the roof of the clubhouse damaged in the second attack on the building in less than a week. The attack is the fourth in three years.
On Thursday, 19 October, loyalists removed tiles from the club's roof, poured in petrol and torched the building. Damage estimated at tens of thousands of pounds was caused. The club is situated in a predominantly loyalist area of South East Antrim and officials see the arson attack as the latest in a series orchestrated by loyalists, who are determined to drive the club out of the area.
However the club committee said in a statement that they will keep going.
Loyalists are also thought to be responsible for an arson attack on a cross community centre in Armoy also in County Antrim.
The premises in Market Street were gutted and computers and other records were destroyed.
The incident follows an arson attack on a Catholic primary school, St Olcan's, three weeks ago. In that attack the school assembly hall was severely damaged and the building suffered smoke damage.
Loyalists aligned with drug dealers may have been behind a threat issued to a man from Drumaness outside Ballynahinch in County Down.
According to Sinn Féin spokesperson Francie Braniff, the man who received the the threat is not aligned to any political party but supported a Sinn Féin campaign against anti-social elements in the Drumaness area during the summer.
At the time, Sinn Féin accused certain private landlords of renting accommodation to anti-social elements and organised protests against them.
According to Braniff, ``the alliance between loyalist death squads and local drug dealers is nothing new and today's threat comes against a backdrop of increased activity by pro-British death squads in South Down. I am urging nationalists to be extra vigilant at this time.''
Soccer games postponed again!!!
For the fifth time since the beginning of the season, soccer matches involving Catholic teams have been postponed on the Blacks Road pitches due to loyalist attacks.
On Saturday 28 October, matches in the Down and Connor League were postponed after it was discovered that 400 nails were scattered across the pitches.
According to Michael McVeigh of Doyle soccer club, ``up to 150 children who look forward to playing a match on Saturday end up being disappointed when the matches are postponed due to this activity''.
McVeigh is now calling on Belfast City Council, which owns the pitches, to monitor them and prevent these attacks.