Republican hardliners have threatened unionist paramilitaries involved in the ongoing sectarian campaign against nationalists in County Antrim.
In a statement, a spokesman for the breakaway group known as the ‘Real IRA’ warned that they would target those responsible for a series of paint, petrol and pipe-bomb attacks on Catholic-owned property, churches and schools across north Antrim.
The campaign has been particularly intense in the village of Ahoghill, near Ballymena. Two Catholic families have fled their homes in the village after being targeted by loyalists.
Just last week, a third Catholic family vowed to leave the area after loyalist paint bombers targeted the family home.
A spokesperson for the Real IRA said: “The situation in north Antrim has not gone unnoticed. Although we are reluctant to go down that road, we are not ruling out that there will be action taken. If nobody else is going to stand up, we will. This is not going to be a sectarian campaign. It will be directed against members of loyalist groups we can identify as being involved in the campaign against nationalists.”
Earlier this month, the PSNI police issued fire blankets and smoke alarms to Catholics living in Ahoghill, leading to criticism that it had abandoned efforts to prevent the attacks.
The Real IRA spokesperson, who referred to the organisation as Oglaigh na hEireann [Irish for IRA], also issued a threat against drug dealers operating out of nationalist estates in Ballymena.
It is reported that the armed group, which opposes the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, has set up units across County Antrim in recent months.