Spotlight on sectarianism
Spotlight on sectarianism

A BBC television documentary has shown footage of their crew being attacked and intimidated in the village of Stoneyford as they were filming a programme about sectarianism.

The ‘Spotlight’ reporting team -- and the elected representative they were interviewing, Sinn Féin’s Paul Butler -- were confronted and abused by local loyalists. One of the loyalists later smashed one of the Spotlight team’s car windows in a vain effort to steal the camera and footage.

An Orange Volunteers (OV) unionist paramilitary group, formed in response to the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, is understood to be still active in the area.

The 1998 murder of Ciaran Heffron in nearby Crumlin has been blamed on the group, and the village has since endured a focused campaign of anti-Catholicism. It is ringed by OV graffiti for many miles on every street sign and is covered in red/white/blue bunting.

The only business in the town, a pub, shut many years ago after a campaign against the Catholic owners running to more than sixty attacks, including pipe bombs and regular threats to kill.

Throughout the past ten years, there has been a flow of Catholic families fleeing the village, due to attacks to their homes and cars or threats to their children.

The documentary, shown last week, was an investigation into sectarianism ten years on from the Good Friday Agreement. It focused on the decade-long campaign endured by Catholic residents in the County Antrim village.

Meanwhile, there is evidence that tensions are beginning to rise across the North ahead of the summer marching season.

This week, petrol bombs were thrown at a church in Fermanagh and an interface in north Belfast this week, raising fears of potential violence over the summer marching season.

There have also been two potentially related incidents, with clashes in Dublin involving loyalist supporters of Linfield FC soccer club and the near-fatal beating of a Sligo rugby fan in Belfast city centre.

Up to five petrol bombs were thrown at the interface between the republican Ardoyne community and the mainly loyalist Twadell Avenue area after 10pm on Monday.

In the past the area has been the scene of violent sectarian conflict. Local community workers said there had been a steady increase in low-level attacks in recent weeks.

Last weekend, a petrol bomb and paint was thrown at a church in Fermanagh.

St Comgall’s Church of Ireland in High Street, Newtownbutler was attacked at about 10pm on Saturday.

Luminous green paint was thrown over the door and the petrol bomb caused scorch damage to the building in the second such attack this month.

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© 2008 Irish Republican News