Football pitch gun threat
Football pitch gun threat

A Sinn Féin representative had a gun pointed at him as he warmed up for a football match, it emerged today.

He was singled out by a masked man on the pitch in Coleraine, County Derry, Sinn Féin councillor Billy Leonard said. The football player ran off and flagged down a car to escape, he added.

Mr Leonard, who has blamed hardline unionists, said: “It is hard to say from initial reports if this was an elaborate scare tactic or if a real attack was avoided by the quick thinking of our activist who fled the scene.

“The attacker definitely asked for the person by name and was approaching him across the pitch pointing the weapon.

The incident happened on Saturday close to the Community Centre in the Ballysally estate.

The gunman, who checked in the changing rooms if the Sinn Féin man was playing, went onto the pitch and singled out his target.

Whatever the motivation, , Mr Leonard said there were guns in loyalist areas which were targeting Sinn Féin activists.

“The message has got to be given loud and clear. There is no place for this in Coleraine.

“Republicans are entitled to their political aspirations, entitled to work for them and entitled to live a normal life. Loyalism must become mature enough to accept all of this.”

Leonard challenged unionist politicians who “knock each other over to get to the microphones” over allegations of IRA activity, to work to remove “this sinister element” from the unionist political community.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that a top unionist paramilitary figure released on bail last week is under a death threat from both the UVF and UDA organisations.

Mark Haddock -- named in the Dublin parliament as a PSNI Special Branch agent linked to a series of murders -- was freed despite a police warning that his release could spark a feud among loyalists.

A decision to kill him was reportedly taken by the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) - which includes the UVF and UDA - at a meeting in Belfast in November.

“He is a dead man walking and will not be safe wherever he is,” one senior loyalist was reported as saying.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News