Republican News · Thursday 06 July 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Catholic forced out in sectarian attack

Belfast man Colin O'Brien became the first Catholic to be driven out of his home as the impact from the Parades Commission's decision to ban Portadown Orangemen marching the Garvaghy Road hit home last Sunday, 2 July.

Within hours of the ban and 12 hours before the Commission announced that this year's Drumcree Parade would also not be allowed to return to Carlton Street Orange Hall through Garvaghy Road, loyalists struck at O'Brien's Fortwilliam Parade home.

O'Brien told An Phoblacht that as the loyalist gang smashed their way into the house in the mainly Protestant North Belfast street, he fought to protect himself and his pregnant girlfriend, Lisa Magee, who was staying the night.

``We are lucky to be alive'', said O'Brien, as he described how the gang tried to smash in the windows of his home but couldn't do so because of perspex sheeting he had fitted.

Instead, they broke through the front door using iron bars. O'Brien got Lisa to lie on the floor and protected her with pillows as he held the sitting room door closed.

The couple called the RUC twice in the course of the attack, yet it took the RUC over 20 minutes to respond.

At times almost close to tears, Lisa described her terror as the gang smashed their way into the house - ``Colin kept shouting that I was pregnant but it didn't stop them''.

The 25-year-old New Lodge woman also said that when the RUC arrived they weren't interested in catching the intruders, but when her brother and his friend arrived the RUC stopped them going into the house.

According to the couple, the RUC were aggressive and threatened to arrest her brother and his friend and assaulted them as they tried to force their way past the RUC into the house.

New Lodge Sinn Féin councillor Gerard Brophy, who was contacted by the couple, went to the scene and organised a group of New Lodge residents to help clear the house of belongings.

Brophy told An Phoblacht that the Housing Executive is supposed to have vans on stand by in the event of such an emergency, but on this occasion a van was not sent out.

Widespread sectarian attacks

Loyalists strike within hours of Gracey's remarks

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly says that Portadown Orangeman Harold Gracey must accept responsibility for his words in the wake of widespread loyalist violence throughout the north over the past four nights.

Speaking after the Orange Order was banned from marching along the Garvaghy Road on Sunday 2 July, Gracey attempted to rally loyalists onto the streets saying: ``This battle is not about Drumcree. It is about the Orange Order, it's about the Protestant people.

``If they don't get off their bellies before it is too late this country [sic] will be gone''.

At the same time, Orangeman Mark Harbison from Stoneyford climbed aboard an RUC Land Rover and addressed hundreds of Orangemen who had attempted to break through the RUC lines to march to Garvaghy Road. ``This is Ulster's Alamo'', said Harbison.

In November last year, the files of hundreds of nationalists were found in Stoneyford Orange Hall. It is believed that the Orange Volunteers had hidden the files, which came from the crown forces, in the Orange Hall.

Before Sunday was out, loyalists had attacked the RUC at Drumcree Church and carried out a petrol bomb attack on a Catholic family in the Westland Road area of North Belfast. At 11.45pm a petrol bomb was thrown through the window of the house, then two men were attacked by a 15-strong loyalist gang as they left the house. Both escaped but required hospital treatment.

On Monday 3 July, loyalist attacks continued and it was reported that a man driving into Garvaghy Road was attacked by loyalists. His ten-year-old daughter was in the car at the time.

Sporadic incidents of rioting and hijacking went on throughout loyalists areas of the North, particularly in North Belfast, where a 60-strong mob attacked the Brookfield Mill Complex on Crumlin Road. When the RUC arrived on the scene a car carrying loyalists attempted to ram the RUC car and according to an eye witness the RUC fired, ``about five or six shots'', into the air.

Vehicles were set on fire in the loyalist Tiger's Bay area of North Belfast while loyalists blocked roads in South Down. DUP assembly member Jim Wells was among the protesters who blockaded Clough on Sunday night.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, a Catholic-owned electrical shop in Ahoghill was destroyed in an arson attack. According to reports, roof tiles were removed and petrol poured through the gap and set alight. The shop was gutted.

Trouble flared again as early as Tuesday afternoon, when loyalists came through the `peace wall' at Workman Avenue on the Springfield Road to paint bomb nationalist houses. The RUC has now closed Lanark Way, which connects the Shankill Road and the Springfield Road, due to the threat of loyalist activity.

On Tuesday night, petrol bombs were thrown over the Springfield Road `peace wall' at nationalist homes, although none hit their targets.

That night, loyalist mobs came on to the streets in force.

North Belfast saw most of the trouble, as up to 200 loyalists gathered in Carlisle Circus. The loyalists blocked roads and put up flags in the area. Last week, the Circus Tavern was torched by the UDA just days after a leading UFF leader was spotted in the bar. The previous week, a UDA gang threatened bar staff, warning that they ``would take further action if any UDA flags flying in Carlisle Circus were tampered with''.

Further up the Antrim Road at Glandore Avenue, an off licence and chemist shop was burned out by a UDA gang, as were a number of empty flats. As on the previous night, the loyalists came out of Cambrai Street to attack the Brookfield Mill. After breaking through the gate they set fire to a number of offices.

When local residents gathered, the loyalists withdrew on to Crumlin Road. A number of republican activists took the opportunity to lock the gates. Using a car chain and padlock, they managed to secure the gates.

One of the most vulnerable areas in North Belfast is Ligoniel, and over the past number of nights loyalist mobs have blocked the only road into the area. However on Tuesday at about 10pm, a gang of loyalists attacked the home of a couple who are in a mixed marriage. The loyalists dragged the couple's car into road and burnt it. They then smashed their way into the house and ransacked it. The couple fled through the back door.

The nationalist Short Strand in East Belfast is another vulnerable area that came under attack from loyalists. Although most of the loyalist activity up until Monday was confined to blocking roads in their own areas, there were stone throwing incidents along both the Newtownards Road and the Albertbridge Road.

One house on the Albertbridge Road come under sustained ball bearing attacks. Throughout the night, up to 50 petrol bombs were thrown at St Matthew's chapel on the Newtownards Road. A local man told An Phoblacht that the loyalist plan seemed to be to burn down the thick bushes to clear the way for further attacks on the chapel.

A doctor's surgery and a chemist's shop near the Newtownards Road and Madrid Street junction were also attacked and loyalists made their way up Madrid Street, intent on attacking Catholic homes, but soon retreated.

In the course of the last four nights, loyalist gunmen have fired on the RUC, with the RUC returning fire on at least three occasions.

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