Nationalists have hit out after Ian Paisley jnr claimed a wave of attacks on Catholic homes in the greater Ballymena area were “self- inflicted”.
Unionist paramilitaries have been blamed for petrol-bomb attacks on Catholic families in Ballymena and nearby Ahoghill. But the North Antrim DUP assembly member said it had all been the work of republicans.
Six of the nine attacks on Catholic homes in the past two weeks involved petrol bombs to try to ‘burn out’ the residents, the other three involved bricks thrown through windows. Five attacks took place last weekend.
The Church of OUr Lady in Harryville, the scene of heavy intimidation and violence of Catholic churchgoers in recent years, was also the subject of a paint-bomb attack during the week.
But Ian Paisley Jnr, the son of the hardline unionist leader, said the attacks were being faked in order to “damage the credibility of the unionist community”.
The home of a Protestant family was also attacked. The PSNI police have said all the attacks are being treated as sectarian.
Sinn Féin North Antrim assembly member Philip McGuigan said Mr Paisley’s comments were “typical of the kind of nonsense that people have had to listen to from Ian Paisley jnr over recent years”.
“Ian Paisley jnr would be much better making his public comments judged on fact,” Mr McGuigan said.
“Ian Paisley jnr should stand shoulder to shoulder with others in trying to bring about an end to sectarianism but it’s obvious from these comments and from other DUP councillors that they aren’t too concerned about sectarian attacks against their Catholic neighbours.”
Local PSNI chief Terry Shevlin said it appeared “a sectarian cycle” had been set up.
But Mr McGuigan has said it is wrong to portray it as “tit for tat”. And he said it was about time the unionist gangs “caught themselves on” before they seriously injure someone.
“Over the past number of weeks there has been a sustained campaign of intimidation and terror directed at the nationalist community that live in Ballymena.
“These attacks have been allowed to become the norm because of the ambivalence of many unionist political representatives.
“Despite the death of young Michael McIlveen in the summer of this year which affected both communities in the town, these Loyalist gangs continue to intimidate and attack Catholics that live in Ballymena.
“It’s accepted that Ballymena is a Unionist town with a Catholic minority, but this does not give the Unionist community any leverage over their Catholic neighbours. The Nationalist people of Ballymena deserve the right to live in peace in their homes as well as anyone else.
“Its unfortunate that the other parties involved in this situation are intent on burying their heads and portraying this as a tit-for-tat campaign. Considering that out of 8 attacks this week alone, 7 of them were on Catholic homes lays to rest this tit-for-tat scenario.”
“The motivation for these petrol bombings and destruction attacks are entirely sectarian. Unionism has nothing to fear from Nationalists being apart of the community in Ballymena nor should they fear equality of treatment for all Ballymena citizens. This is a message that needs to be heard clearly from elected unionism.”
“I want to reiterate my belief that the DUP and others, who sit on Forums and Commissions with the leaderships of the UDA and UVF can help bring about an end to these attacks. As the largest unionist party, they have an obligation to face down the loyalist thugs intent on fermenting sectarian division. Words of condemnation are obviously not enough, radical measures are needed to change the sectarian attitudes that clearly exist in their community.”