A three-hour racist assault on the home of a former republican prisoner in west Belfast last weekend has highlighted a wave of spontaneous acts of violence, racism and sectarianism across the North.
Windows at the home of Tim Brannigan were smashed in the attack which has brought attention to low-level violence and anti-social activity which often goes unreported.
Racist abuse was shouted at Mr Brannigan, who is now a respected author, after he criticised bonfires lit to mark the anniversary of internment.
Teenagers had earlier posed with guns around a bonfire in the nationalist Beechmount area of west Belfast. In the Divis area, a gang known as Divis ‘hoods’ stole a car and later set it alight as a large crowd watched on.
“I’m very proud of west Belfast, but it’s changing even more quickly than I expected and in a different direction,” Mr Brannigan later told BBC radio.
“I think that there seriously needs to be a conversation, but people need to discuss what’s going on in the area. The idea of what’s acceptable now is disgraceful”.
A random gun attack from a passing car that took place in the early hours of Tuesday morning in Rodney Drive, West Belfast was also a shock to the community. People in the area believe it was a case of mistaken identity as the two women targeted “wouldn’t wish harm on anybody”. A local resident said, “It is such a quiet wee street, things like this don’t usually happen.”
Much of the violence has been linked to rising levels of drugs crime and the changing nature of paramilitary structures. The worst of this often takes place in loyalist areas.
A west Belfast man living near the Shankill Road was this week nailed to a worktop in a brutal attack in an apparent turf war over drugs sales. A number of masked men forced their way into his home on Florence Walk, held the victim down and hammered a nail into each of his hands. The 23-year-old said his attackers, who he linked to the paramilitary UDA, also tried to hammer nails into his feet.
In Larne, another loyalist gang attacked a man in his fifties with baseball bats after a breaking into his home. He was taken to hospital with injuries to his right leg, ribs and right arm.
Meanwhile, random acts of sectarian violence and intimidation continue.
Nationalists on the Derry to Belfast train were subjected to chanting loyalists returning from the Apprentice Boys ‘Relief of Derry’ march. One passenger, who did not want to be named, was returning from a visit to Derry when bandsmen boarded.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was all about violence and very, very sectarian,” he said. At one stage, the passenger said one of the bandsmen approached him and asked why he was not singing along. “I didn’t know what to say so I just said I was tired marching and that seemed to be ok for him.”
And bus returning through Dungiven on the way back from the Apprentice Boys parade in Derry was attacked with bricks. One elderly woman was hit with a brick and lost four teeth.
“There was no one in the seat between us and the driver. If it had hit the driver this could have been much worse,” she said. She appealed to those behind the incident: “Please just think about what you are doing.”