The British government has promised “a crackdown” on sectarian violence after a three-month-old Catholic baby was showered with glass and paint by a loyalist hate gang last week.
British Direct Rule Minister Shaun Woodward disputed claims that the PSNI police were failing to tackle the problem of increasing violence. There has been particular concern over ongoing attacks in north County Antrim and at the flashpoints in north and east Belfast, where rioting has become an almost nightly occurrence.
“All these attacks are absolutely appalling. It needs a community response and it needs an effective police response,” Mr Woodward said. “We are going to crack down on it. We are determined that these attacks will not be a way of life.”
Three children, including a 13-week-old baby, were showered with paint and glass during an attack on a house in the nationalist Cliftondene Gardens area at around 5.30pm on Wednesday evening last week.
A petrol bomb was also thrown in the attack, setting fire to the hall carpet. The family has decided not to return to their home.
Sinn FŽin’s Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald, who has been visiting the affected areas, held a meeting with Woodward on Thursday.
Speaking afterwards Ms Mc-Donald said: “The incidents, particularly in the Short Strand (east Belfast) and north Antrim, were orchestrated and they were clearly targeted at vulnerable Catholic and nationalist homes and communities.”
Ms McDonald said the 26-County government needed to intervene as the violence continues to escalate.
“There have been over 100 attacks by loyalist paramilitaries against the nationalist communities of Belfast and Antrim over the last three weeks,” Ms McDonald said.
“Dublin must not stand idly by while nationalists in Antrim stand unprotected before the loyalist onslaught.”
In one attack in County Antrim, also on Wednesday evening, flames burst through the home of a Catholic family after a petrol-bomb attack, causing extensive damage.
it burned furnishings, destroying cupboards and work tops, cracking windows and melting light fittings in the Dervock home.
‘Taigs out’ was also daubed on an outside wall during the attack, which took place on Wednesday night-
The property belongs to a 22-year-old Catholic who had moved in at Christmas.
The attacks was the latest in a sectarian campaign by loyalists across north Antrim.
A number of Catholic families have been forced to leave Ahoghill, while paint bombs have been hurled at Catholic churches in Ballymena and pipe bombs left outside homes in Cloughmills.
Mr McGuigan said the latest attack was just the tip of the iceberg for nationalist communities in his area.
“Pipe bombs, paint bombs, attacks upon churches, homes and schools have become the norm.
“These attacks have been allowed to become the norm because of the ambivalence of many unionist political representatives,” he said.
Nationalists were angered after the local PSNI commander claimed to be keeping an “open mind” on the attack. The PSNI has appeared determined to play down the sectarian nature of recent violence on Catholics, notably the brutal stabbing of 15-year-old Thomas Devlin in north Belfast earlier this month and the recent series of attacks on Catholics in Ahoghill.
Mr McGuigan pointed out that the petrol-bombed home whad also been sprayed with the words ‘Taigs Out’.
“It is becoming very clear to nationalists that there is a tolerance of unionist paramilitary violence amongst senior figures within the PSNI,” he said. “There can be no other explanation for their failure to tackle this campaign or at the very least publicly acknowledge that it is happening at all.”