Loyalists escalate campaign

Loyalists have carried out a series of sectarian attacks against Catholic homes over the past two days.

In the first attack on Wednesday night three windows were smashed at a house off the Crumlin Road in north Belfast shortly after 9.30pm.

Fireworks were thrown through the broken windows, causing extensive damage to a living room and a bathroom.

Almost a mile away, two windows were smashed at a house on Kingsmere Avenue and two paint bombs were thrown inside, causing extensive damaging to the living room.

In a third attack shortly after 11pm, a 56-year-old woman was treated for shock after she was showered with glass and paint as she sat watching television at her home in Mountainview Park.

The grandmother-of-four, who did not want to be named, said she initially thought she was covered in blood when her living-room window was smashed.

``The first I knew anything was happening was when the window came in around me,'' she said.

``My daughter thought that I was covered in blood but it turned out to be red paint. It was a terrifying experience.''

Two houses in the adjoining Mountainview Gardens, belonging to a father and daughter, were targeted in the same attack.

``The first I knew anything was happening was when I heard a huge thud against the window,'' the man, who was too afraid to be named, said.

``It was only the double glazing which saved us. If it had been petrol bombs none of us would be alive this morning.

``My two-year-old grandson was in hysterics. How do you explain to a child that people are attacking your home just because you are Catholic?''

The windows of several cars were smashed by the attackers, and paint was thrown over the vehicles.

At the same time on Wednesday night, there was also an attack on the home the Antrim chairman of Sinn Féin, Paddy Murray, in the Rathenraw estate.

And shortly after 8.30am on Thursday morning, a group of Catholic schoolboys from St Gabriel's secondary school on the Crumlin Road were attacked by a man with an iron bar.

One of the schoolboys was grabbed by the attacker but managed to escape.

The attacker then made off in the direction of the loyalist Hesketh Road.

The attacks came less than 24 hours after loyalists alleged republicans had carried out attacks on Protestant homes on Tuesday night.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly said that while he condemned all sectarian attacks, he remained unconvinced that republicans had been responsible for the attacks on Protestant homes earlier this week.

``I am against attacks on anyone's house, regardless of their religion,'' he said.

``But what I will say is that it is questionable that the attacks on these Protestant homes didn't take place on an interface, but were deep within loyalist areas.

``I am concerned that this may be similar to attacks on Protestant houses three years ago, which were initially blamed on republicans, but were later proved to have been carried out by the UDA.

``It would appear that elements of the UDA may be using this same tactic again to justify attacks on the homes of innocent Catholics.

The violence came as Sinn Féin released a dosssier documenting 160 separate attacks including shootings, bombings and assaults ocer the past three months.

At a Belfast press conference on Wednesday, Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said this was only the tip of the iceberg and he urged all political parties to speak out with one voice against the ongoing sectarian campaign.

He explained that the document will be forwarded to the British and Irish governments.

Mr McGuinness said: ``In the past three months, despite relative calm at some interface areas, loyalist violence has persisted with more than 160 separate attacks, including numerous gun attacks, 54 bomb attacks and 43 serious assaults and stabbings.

``Also in the past number of weeks this campaign has spread to a number of schools, with devices being left at school gates.''

Sinn Féin said if has been aware that over the past year of intensive contacts between unionist political leaders, with UUP authority and the leaders of the various paramilitary groups have been ongoing.

``Unionist politicians should explain the insight this has given them into what is going on within these armed groups and tell us when this sustained campaign will end.

Sinn Féin's Mr McGuinness said that there were ``elements within the UDA'' who were involved in attacks, with the support of people within British military intelligence, who were trying to de-stabilise the situation.

Last night, the UPRG, which represents the UDA politically, claimed that the group was committed to peace.

But Sinn Féin Representative for North Belfast Gerry Kelly said the UDA had orchestrated most of the over 160 sectarian attacks carried out by loyalists in the past three month ``despite the fact that we were assured by the UPRG that the UDA was on cessation.

``What people want to hear from the UPRG is that the attacks will end and what they want form the UDA is a halt to their campaign of sectarian attacks.

``Given the record of both groups people, in nationalists areas simply do not believe what the UPRG is saying. The intentions of the UDA will not be judged on the basis of statements from the UPRG, but on the actions of loyalists on the ground.''

* In other incidents, a prison officer's home was attacked with a petrol bomb in Newtownabbey, County Antrim, last night. The bomb caused damage to the officer's car, which was parked in the driveway of his home.

And a family of four escaped injury overnight after shots were fired through the window of their home in Bangor, County Down. A man, a woman and two teenage boys were sleeping upstairs when the attack on their home in the West Moreland area of the town.

Earlier, a phone box in the town was destroyed by an explosion. An explosive device, placed on top of the phone box, detonated shortly after midnight. Both incidents have been blamed on loyalists.

Urgent Appeal

Despite increasing support for Irish freedom and unity, we need your help to overcome British and unionist intransigence. We can end the denial of our rights in relation to Brexit, the Irish language, a border poll and legacy issues, with your support.

Please support IRN now to help us continue reporting and campaigning for our national rights. Even one pound a month can make a big difference for us.

Your contribution can be made with a credit or debit card by clicking below. A continuing monthly donation of £2 or more will give you full access to this site. Thank you. Go raibh míle maith agat.

© 2003 Irish Republican News