SF councillor targeted as attacks mount
A Sinn Féin councillor in County Tyrone is believed to have been the target of a pipe-bomb attack by the unionist paramilitary ‘Orange Volunteers’.
An escalation of sectarian tensions in the area, which has seen a series of attacks on Gaelic sports clubs and Orange halls, now appears to be taking a more overtly political tone.
Mid-Ulster MLA Michelle O’Neill said she believed Cookstown councillor John McNamee was the intended victim of the device.
Ms O’Neill said she believed the pipe bomb, found close to Mr McNamee’s home, was planted by the Orange Volunteers following their recent announcement that their sectarian armed campaign had resumed.
“This is a very serious incident particularly given the recent find of pipe bombs in nearby Coagh,” she said.
“It appears that Cookstown councillor John McNamee and the Sinn Féin offices were the intended target of these devices, at least one of which was viable.”
The Orange Order said an explosive device damaged the main room of Bawn Orange Hall near Pomeroy last week. The hall was discovered to have been broken into on Friday morning.
It follows two arson attacks on Gaelic clubs in County Tyrone within 24 hours of each other earlier in the week
Buildings at St Malachy’s at Edendork and Fr Rocks in Cookstown both suffered serious damage in attacks which were subsequently claimed by the Orange Volunteers.
Sinn Féin assembly member Michelle O’Neill said the attacks were “wrong” and “only set back community relations”.
“The simple fact is that whoever is behind such attacks can only be described as sectarian,” she said.
Meanwhile, a 25-year-old German woman is in hospital in Belfast with a broken jaw after loyalist thugs hurled a stone through a taxi windscreen.
The attack took place in South Belfast at around 11pm on Wednesday night.
The brick shattered the windscreen, striking the woman, while the driver and two other women who are both aged 22 escaped injury.
It is understood that taxi companies from outside the area, specifically those from west Belfast, have been the target of a number of such attacks in recent weeks.
On the same day, republican youths were blamed for leaving a coffee-jar device near the New Barnsley PSNI barracks on the Springfield Road in west Belfast.
The device did not explode, but the incident was described by the PSNI as “appalling”. The Springfield Road was closed for several hours on Wednesday as a result of the PSNI alert.
There were also major bomb alerts in Lurgan and in Strabane, where a mini-riot subsequently broke out between nationalist residents and the PSNI.
The Sinn Féin chairman of Strabane District Council accused the PSNI of adopting a “heavy handed and cavalier” approach to policing in the town.
Councillor Jarlath McNulty said residents of the area had been subjected to policing akin to the “worst excesses of the RUC during the 1980s and early 1990s” over recent weeks.
“People are being stopped in the street on a regular basis and thoroughly searched with some young people also being forced to remove their shoes by aggressive PSNI members.
“This was a well-known tactic by the RUC to attempt to humiliate people and it has no place in legitimate policing. There is no security justification whatsoever for this over the top behaviour been displayed by the PSNI.”
The council chairman also accused the PSNI of dishing out “community punishment”.