Thanks to a year-long mediation process, involving leading politicians in behind-the-scenes talks and community workers liaising across the peace lines, there have been relatively few pipe bombings and no sectarian murders this summer.
Ugly and potentially life-threatening assaults are still taking place, however, although they’re not attracting as much media attention as in past, more violent, summers.
In the latest incident, a 17-year-old girl had a gun held to her head in broad daylight during an attack by a 15-strong armed gang, claiming to be from the UDA, at a parking lot in South Belfast.
Police think the beating of three people — a man, the girl and a 14-year-old boy — in Dunmurry on Sunday afternoon was sectarian. A gang, armed with baseball bats, golf clubs and a gun, carried out the attack close to a vacant shop.
Former Lagan Valley SDLP Assembly member Patricia Lewsley said: “It seems quite clear that those responsible were representatives of the UDA — if this is the case it is certainly a most worrying and sinister development.”
Last weekend, six Catholic homes in Antrim town were attacked by a gang of 30 marauding loyalist youths. A brick was thrown through the window of a 62-year-old woman.
A Catholic church was burned out at the weekend also. Flammable liquid was put through a smashed window and set on fire at St. John’s church, Magherafelt, which dates back to penal times. Fr. David Moore, the curate, said it would take a vast amount of money to repair the church, while the area’s MP, Martin McGuinness, called on Unionist politicians to condemn the attack.
” This is just the latest in a long number of attacks on Catholics and their property,” he said. “Whether these attacks are directed at Catholic or Protestant churches, Orange or GAA halls or individuals homes they are wrong and must be stopped.”