Arson attack recalls Quinn tragedy
Arson attack recalls Quinn tragedy

A weekend of serious violence in north Belfast has followed Friday’s ‘Tour of the North’ parade.

During the early hours of Monday morning oil tanks at the back of houses in the Whitewell area of north Belfast were set alight.

The flames from the burning oil quickly spread to engulf three homes.

Eight children, including an eight month old baby, were asleep in the houses destroyed. One man was taken to hospital to be treated for the effects of smoke inhalation.

Peter McCall, whose Old Throne Park home was one of those set alight, said his family was fortunate to be alive.

He said: “I shouted. I don’t know how the children got out, but they got themselves out. It was mayhem.

“We had a playhouse in the garden. Four of the children slept in it on Friday night along with a neighbour’s child. It is destroyed. If the children had been in it, there would have been nothing left.”

Mr McCall said he was asleep when the attack occurred and that he would now be moving out of the area.

Local Sinn Féin councillor Tierna Cunningham said: “This was attempted murder and could easily have led to a tragedy like the murder of the three Quinn children in Ballymoney by loyalist petrol bombers in July 1998.

“The people who carried out this sectarian attack had absolutely no regard for the lives of the residents of these homes.”

Firefighters who attended the blaze said had they arrived later the damage would have been more widespread.

“Had it been allowed to take hold, we could certainly have lost all three houses,” said local fire chief William Kavanagh.

Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly described the arson attack as “attempted murder” as he visited the families yesterday.

Mr Kelly said the area was mixed, with a number of mixed marriage families. He blamed unionists from White City “who were clearly working on the assumption that all of the residents of that area were Catholic”.

“This arson attack was the fifth sectarian attack carried out by loyalists in 48 hours in Belfast. What is needed now is clear and positive leadership from unionist and loyalist political, church and community leaders not just to call for an end to this wave of attacks but to actually do something about getting it stopped.

“Given the horrific nature of last nights incident and the massive damage caused the families affected have told me this morning that they feel that they can no longer live in that area and will now leave their homes.”

The arson attacks came during a weekend of unionist violence throughout north Belfast.

On Friday evening the windows of Catholic-owned cars on the Whitewell Road were smashed by an eight-strong gang.

The following day nationalist homes on the Ligoniel Road were targeted in a series of paint-bomb and petrol-bomb attacks.

Later on Saturday a seriously disabled Catholic man from the Short Strand area of east Belfast was hospitalised after being attacked by loyalists carrying iron bars.

And early Sunday morning, a Canadian man was almost beaten to death by a unionist gang who appear to have mistaken the man for a local Catholic. The attack took place on the loyalist Ravenhill Road, close to the Short Strand.

The man was left with a broken jaw, a collapsed lung and severe facial injuries.

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