By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — Breandan Mac Cionnaith, the spokesman for residents of the Garvaghy Road, near Portadown, Co. Armagh, has been warned by the RUC that he is in imminent danger of loyalist attack.
The threat came on the same day that loyalists in the town said they planned a “Harryville-style” picket of the main Catholic chapel attended by nationalist residents in the area.
Meanwhile, at the scene of the original Harryville picket, in Ballymena, Co. Antrim, 30 loyalists turned out before Saturday night Mass in the town. They said they intended to continue their weekly pickets until nationalists ceased protesting at Orange parades.
The Harryville picket of Our Lady’s Chapel petered out last year after 20 months. At its height, Catholic Mass-goers were physically attacked and abused by drunken loyalists until they cancelled Saturday night Masses.
In Portadown, RUC officers visited Mac Cionnaith’s home last Friday night and informed him he was being targeted by loyalists who had made death threats against him.
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He was told his life was in immediate danger, and would continue to be so in upcoming days and weeks. The RUC did not provide details on what kind of attack, or which group of loyalist paramilitaries was involved.
All they said was that “intelligence sources” led them to believe he was at very serious risk for the next several weeks. Last week, Sinn FTin assemblyman and negotiator Martin McGuinness was also told he was at imminent risk from loyalists.
Mac Cionnaith is arguably the No. 1 target for loyalist vitriol and hatred in the North. He is unable to shop or socialize in Portadown town center for fear of attack.
There have been hundreds of loyalist protests, both legal and illegal, in the Garvaghy Road area since the rerouting of last July’s Orange parade in the town.
At least 12 people have left their homes in the ensuing sectarian violence. There are eight Orange parades planned for this month, with 16 due in May leading up to next July’s traditional parade.