Two men were treated in hospital for serious head injuries after a loyalist mob, including armed paramilitaries, attacked a republican commemoration in Coleraine last weekend - with the assistance of the police.

Four others were injured when over a hundred loyalists were allowed by the PSNI to enter an internment bonfire in Coleraine, County Tyrone.

PSNI police were seen moving their Land Rovers to allow the mob who carried handguns, hatchets, claw hammers, sticks and golf clubs to move in on the nationalist people in the Heights estate.

They were working to commmemorate the introduction of internment without trial in 1971, when hundreds of nationalists were rounded up by the British Crown forces and thrown in jail.

Sinn Féin representative Billy Leonard accused the PSNI of colluding with the loyalist attackers.

He said: “Coleraine saw some of the worst incidents in recent years and unionism, loyalism and the police must finally come to terms with their street and community arrogance in this town.

“For two hand guns to be openly displayed and nothing done is a total disgrace and an abdication of the police role.

“A nationalist lady was struck twice by police in the most thuggish way as she helped an injured relative. Nationalists had to jump walls, and seek the safety of houses; the houses were then attacked.

“Loyalists were obviously out to maximise injuries and convey their small town arrogance, and yet again the police colluded with them.”

He said people in the area were “understandably terrified”.

Leonard also appealed for threats levelled at nationalists and republicans to be lifted. Several people including a mother with three children have received notifications in recent weeks that they are under loyalist threat of attack.

He also called on local unionist representatives to stop “equivocating” on the issue of loyalist guns being used on Coleraine streets.


In another incident, a group guarding the site of a bonfire in north Belfast had their camper van torched in a late-night attack.

Two loyalists entered bonfire site in Ligoniel and tried to set fire to the vehicle while children and teenagers were asleep inside.

They also attempted to light the bonfire prematurely, ahead of the anniversary of the introduction of internment without trial in 1971 last weekend.

A teenager, who was inside the van but did not wish to be named, said he and his friends could have been killed.

“We’ve been expecting something to happen all week, but we never thought they would try to burn the camper van,” he said.


Meanwhile, republicans in Ballymena went ahead with a bonfire despite efforts by Sinn Féin and the local council to ban it.

The 20ft bonfire was smaller than planned after most of the bonfire material was suddenly removed last week, leading to angry confrontations between local republicans and Sinn Féin representatives.

Two members of the local community association turned out to support the bonfire. Mayn residents questioned the handling of five million pounds funding for the deprived Dunclug estate, where the event was organised.

Most Ballymena recreational facilities - the cinema, leisure centre and Superbowl - are in the Protestant part of town.

“The bonfire is all young people here have,” said resident Paul O’Neill.

“I’m not pro-bonfire - it’s something more part of loyalist than nationalist culture - but I’m angry when thousands of pounds of funding go to Eleventh of July loyalist bonfires in Ballymena, and we’re completely neglected. Sectarianism is rife here.”

In 2006, Catholic teenager Michael McIlveen was beaten to death by loyalists in Ballymena.

“On his anniversary three months ago, I was set upon by four carloads of loyalists as I walked home,” says O’Neill.

“‘Get the Fenian bastard!’ they yelled. I was beaten with baseball bats and stabbed in the head.”

Another resident added: “Loyalist bands play the Sash near where Michael McIlveen was murdered, yet we’re not allowed a bonfire?”

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© 2008 Irish Republican News