Tensions have risen in the North ahead of a highly contentious Orange Order parade due to take place in the County Antrim village of Rasharkin on Friday.

The unionist paramilitary ‘Orange Volunteers’ claimed responsibility for a bomb which exploded under a car parked in a County Tyrone housing estate this week.

The van was damaged after a device detonated outside the house of a Catholic living in the Fairfield area of Dungannon.

And Catholic-owned properties were damaged in the County Derry villages of Garvagh and Bellaghy this week.

In Garvagh, a number of businesses were targeted in an early-morning attack by loyalists, smashing a total of 20 windows at a butcher’s shop, a cafe, a hotel and a public house on the Main Street.

A building owned by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a parochial Hall and an Orange Hall were also targeted, while Catholic churches in Ballymena are also being attacked routinely.

Meanwhile, the family home of murdered Catholic community worker Kevin McDaid who died after he was attacked by a UDA mob has been attacked again.

Loyalist violence typically increases every summer in response to tension over triumphalist parades in nationalist areas.

Last week, the Parades Commission fueled the tension when it ruled that 41 loyalist bands can march through the overwhelmingly nationalist village of Rasharkin.

The Commission is responsible for adjudicating on the routes of all contentious parades in the North.

There was particular concern in Coleraine, County Derry where the home of the grieving family of Kevin McDaid. and the home of friends of the family were targeted.

Those who witnessed the murder of Mr McDaid and could potentially testify against his killers have been enduring a campaign of intimidation by loyalists.

“In both cases they arrived by car and they knew exactly the homes they wanted to hit,” said Coleraine Sinn Fein councillor Billy Leonard.

“There are young children in these houses and they have obviously been frightened by the incidents.”

He said these were but the latest incidents.

“Kevin McDaid’s name has been cynically chanted by loyalists at the fringes of the Heights and Catholics have been subjected to verbal intimidation when simply in the town centre shopping. On some occasions witnesses to Kevin’s murder have been singled out.

“This intimidation must cease. In the space of two days I have been working with Catholics in Garvagh who had their business premises attacked and now have to deal with these Coleraine incidents. During it all there is silence from unionist representatives.”

Sinn Fein Assembly member Daithi McKay said the anger over tomorrow’s parade among residents in Rasharkin is growing and they raised their objections again this week at the Parades Commission, to no effect.

Mr McKay has said that people in Rasharkin could not understand why the Commission refused to review their decision.

“The Parades Commission heard the concerns voiced by residents in Rasharkin at a public meeting last week about the intimidation, loyalist paramilitary displays and fear of violence that this parade would visit upon the community.

“It’s obvious that the Commission believes that the right of loyalists to march and intimidate the people of this village outweighs the right of Catholics in Rasharkin to live free from sectarian harassment.

“Those who made this decision should hang their head in shame. A small village like Rasharkin cannot accommodate 41 loyalist bands and it doesn’t take a genius to see that. It is irresponsible and dangerous to let hundreds of loyalists loose in a mainly nationalist village like this.”

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© 2009 Irish Republican News