Loyalists attack Antrim schools
Sinn Féin Assembly member for Mid-Ulster, John Kelly, has raised concerns at the ``sectarian rhetoric'' used by the DUP's Willie McCrea in a local newspaper last week, just days before a Catholic school in Greenlough near Portglenone in County Antrim was torched by loyalists.
A further attack on an Irish language school in Dunloy, also in County Antrim, has also been blamed on loyalists, whose campaign against nationalist schools, GAA Clubs and Catholic Churches intensified over the summer.
In a statement, Kelly accused McCrea, the MP for South Antrim, of ``dangerous talk'', when in an interview in a local paper said that, ``shadowy figures connected to IRA/Sinn Féin'' were behind violent attacks against Protestant schoolchildren in Maghera, County Derry.
John Kelly said Sinn Féin had no knowledge of such attacks and accused the DUP man of heightening sectarian tension.
In the Greenlough attack, St Mary's primary school was severely damaged, forcing teachers to find an alternative venue for children sitting the 11+ transfer test.
The attack on the building housing Bunscoil Dal Riada has been described as an attack on the whole community of Dunloy. Not only did the building house the school but also Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Éireann, other community groups and a youth club, while other Irish language classes were also held in the building.
The attack, which happened in the early hours of Sunday morning, badly damaged the building. A tyre filled with a flammable liquid was placed against the side of the building and set alight. In a similar attack on a Catholic church in Cushendall during the summer, loyalists filled tyres with petrol and ignited them against the door of the chapel causing severe fire damage to the doors and smoke damage to the interior of the building.
Speaking to An Phoblacht, Donna Martin from Dunloy, who sits on the Board of Governors and whose three children attend the school, said they were launching an appeal to raise funds to get the school up and running again.
Donations can be sent to Cairdeas Teach an Cheoil, First Trust, Ballymoney, Sort Code: 93 86 18 Account No: 42098019.
McGuinness slams arson attacks
Education minister Martin McGuinness this week called on those carrying out arson attacks on Orange halls oand other properties to desist immediately. Speaking aftre an attack on an Orange hall in his constitutency, McGuinness said on Tuesday: ``As I said in the Assembly yesterday, attacks such as these - whether on Orange halls, Irish schools, churches or any other property perceived to represent an oppposite culture to those attacking them - must be deplored.
``Speaking as an Irish republican, sectarianism has no part to play in our philosophy.'' He also appealed to unionist leaders to use their influence to stop the ongoing attacks on property in nationalist areas.
Bigotry in Ballynahinch
BY PEADAR WHELAN
When 39-year-old Thomas Baker was set upon by loyalists as he walked home from a night out, it was the latest in a long line of loyalist attacks on nationalists in the County Down town of Ballynahinch.
Since July alone, up to 32 separate sectarian attacks have been directed at vulnerable nationalists, either physical assaults or damage to property, and on numerous occasions the RUC have stood by as the loyalists carried out these attacks.
Speaking to An Phoblacht, Sinn Féin representative for the Ballynahinch area, Francie Braniff, warned ``it is only a matter of time before the nationalist nightmare in Ballynahinch has its own Robert Hamill''.
Explaining that the attack on Thomas Baker was just one in a series of attacks that loyalists were involved in over the weekend, Braniff recounted the details of that attack. On Thursday 23 November, at about 10.45pm, a white Transit van and two carloads of loyalists drew up alongside a group of nationalists on High Street and set about them with iron bars and baseball bats. Some of the loyalists were masked.
According to Braniff, the loyalists felt so confident that nothing would happen to them that after the initial attacks they marched through the town and beat other nationalists they came across. On Friday, the same van was seen in the town again and a group of loyalists jumped and chased nationalists who had just left a local bar.
It was around this time that Thomas Baker was assaulted. It was not clear whether the loyalists who jumped from the van were involved in the attack on Baker, but he told An Phoblacht that as he walked home along the nearby Library Hill going towards the nationalist Windmill Gardens, four loyalists appeared on either side of him: ``I heard them saying `you Fenian bastard' and they laid into me. I was beaten to the ground and kicked around the head and body. I was dazed and unsteady when I got up and phoned my friend on the mobile.''
Thomas suffered injuries to his head and face as well as injuries to his hip and knee.
Francie Braniff says the Library Hill area has a history of loyalist attacks. ``They know that anyone going up Library Hill into the Windmill Hill estate is Catholic. You could say they are sitting ducks,'' said Braniff. He has criticised SDLP councillor Anne McAleenan, who is spearheading a plan to build an 8ft high fence at the Hill Crest Drive area of the town. Work on the fence began on Monday morning 27 November without the knowledge of local residents.
The area, which is near the town centre, has suffered from loyalist attacks and during protests over Drumcree had been besieged and cut off by loyalist protesters. Now the proposed fence will cut these vulnerable nationalists off from the main area of Ballynahinch, Loughside, and force people to take a detour through the town, where numerous loyalist attacks have been carried out.
At a meeting of Down District Council on 25 September, McAleenan proposed that a palisade fence costing £4,500 be erected and justified the fence on the grounds of ``unsociable behaviour'' in the area.
Opposing this, Braniff stated that the residents of the area hadn't been consulted and that the SDLP, the RUC and the Ballynahinch Regeneration Group had come up with the idea for the fence at private meetings held during the summer.
Residents of the area are now organising a petition calling for the fence to be removed.