By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — A loyalist who once tried to murder Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams is believed to have ordered the murder of a Catholic mailman on Saturday.
Daniel McColgan, 20, was on his way to work at 5:45 a.m. when two gunmen walked up to him in the mainly loyalist Rathcoole area and shot him at point-blank range several times.
As the Echo went to press, two unnamed members of the Ulster Defense Association were being questioned by police, though neither has been charged. The UDA claimed responsibility for the murder, the first time it has ever made such an admission, despite having killed almost 400 Catholics under the guise of other, outlawed cover organizations.
McColgan, who had a 13-month-old baby daughter, died after being rushed to hospital. The son of mixed-religion parents, he had attended an integrated school and sometimes worked as a DJ in the British Legion club, where his Protestant grandfather is a member.
In the hours before he was murdered, McColgan had finished working as a DJ in a city center pub and had gone home to change into his work clothes and begin another shift as a mailman.
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His partner, and the mother of his child, Lyndsey Millikin, has appealed for no retaliation.
Union leaders have called a half-day stoppage throughout the North to protest the McColgan murder. Peter Bunting of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions confirmed the move after meetings at Stormont.
“We are calling for support and cooperation from employers given the unprecedented nature of recent events,” he said, adding that the North is “polluted with sectarianism” and that politicians are doing little to rein it in.
The Red Hand Defenders, a cover name often used by the UDA, extended its threat on Saturday against all Catholic postal workers, school staff and teachers in North Belfast.
The threat is the latest move from the Southeast Antrim UDA, which is suspected of directing a string of recent sectarian murders and attacks in the North Belfast and Antrim areas.
Billy Hutchinson, a North Belfast assembly member for the Progressive Unionist Party, which has links to the rival loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Volunteer Force, said it is “time for loyalism to think where it was going and where one or two people could drag loyalism.”
The Northern secretary, John Reid, said a “cowardly minority” of loyalist paramilitaries are waging war against the weak, vulnerable and most exposed people in the North. “It was a postman and a Catholic on Saturday. It could be any public servant or any worker tomorrow,” he said.
Also, last Thursday, armed men used cudgels and crowbars to smash teachers’ cars at a North Belfast school. Three carloads of men, two of whom were armed with guns, arrived at Our Lady of Mercy secondary school. Two men stood guard on the gate while the rest used weapons to smash windshields.
At one point, one of the gang held a gun to the head of a nun on the reception desk as young pupils screamed.
Two other schools, St. Bride’s, in South Belfast, and St. Patrick’s, in Lisburn, were damaged in arson attacks on Monday night.
Other schools, including the Protestant Boys’ Model on Crumlin Road, also witnessed disruption of classes because of hoax bomb alerts.
On Monday, police and soldiers were posted outside all Catholic schools in North Belfast, watching over the arrival of children and staff.
There had been criticism from Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Irish government about the low numbers of arrests and convictions during the continuing loyalist campaign in North Belfast. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern last week called for more determined action by the police to track down the loyalists behind what Sinn Fein calls the continuing anti-Catholic “pogrom.”
“The figures speak for themselves,” the taoiseach said. “We have seen in North Belfast, at a time when other areas are quiet, the number of shootings and violent incidents increase quite dramatically. According to official figures produced by the police, two-thirds of those were generated by loyalist groups. But the statistics also show there have been few or no arrests. It would be surprising if some of the leaders of the loyalist gangs are not known. I just hope that the authorities can do all they can.”