Category: Archive


February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — A significant escalation in the loyalist campaign of violence against Catholics came on Sunday in North Belfast when a firebomb was thrown into the home of a couple and their three young children.

John Hume, the SDLP leader, has called the spate of recent attacks an attempt to goad the IRA to retaliate.

During Sunday’s attack, the couple ran to safety outside their home, which is in the nationalist New Lodge estate. The house suffered severe damage.

Members of the UDA are being blamed by residents, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the RUC, although loyalist political representatives deny all knowledge. Speaking Monday after meeting the new Northern Ireland Secretary of State, John Reid, Hume decried the attack as part of a deliberate loyalist campaign to force the IRA’s hand.

"Those responsible are trying to create an atmosphere of lawlessness on the streets," Hume said. "We are deeply concerned at these sectarian attacks on innocent families. I pointed out that what is behind them is an attempt to provoke the IRA into starting up its campaign again."

Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo

Subscribe to one of our great value packages.

The New Lodge attack came within days of two families in North Belfast being attacked by gunfire and prompted the RUC to call back British troops onto the streets after a six-month absence.

The homes attacked belonged to two sons of the veteran republican Martin Meehan, whose own home has also been attacked, causing him to move his wife, child and grandchild out to a place of safety.

On Thursday, after a bomb warning was phoned to the RUC, they searched Meehan’s backyard and found no bombs, but did find a loaded revolver at the foot of his neighbor’s backyard wall, as if it had fallen there.

Meehan believes that the gun was either dropped there accidentally during an attack on his home, or that it was an attempt to back up claims made by UDP spokesman John White that republicans were orchestrating the shootings and bombings to discredit the UDA.

"I think they [the attacks] are being stage-managed by republicans," White had said last week. Asked if the UDA cease-fire was unraveling, he admitted he "would be fearful."

"The feeling on the ground is that nationalists have got everything out of the Good Friday agreement and loyalists have got nothing," White said. "It would be fair to say that there are a lot of people who are opposed to the way the agreement is working out."

Meehan rejected White’s claim, saying, "the dogs in the street know who is carrying out these attacks. These people are politically bankrupt and have no forward-looking ideas at all, so they are reverting back to the sectarian dark ages that have plagued us for so long.

"They are nothing but fascists. The attacks on my family have done nothing but strengthen my republicanism. I will not be bending my knee to Nazis."

Also during the last week, in the latest escalation in the sectarian violence, the lives of Catholic staff at North Belfast’s Mater Hospital were threatened. Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said the threats were particularly worrying given the fact that all warnings and threats have been followed by an attack.

SDLP Assemblyman Alban Maginnis, whose own party offices had earlier been attacked by loyalist bombers, has offered to meet the UDA if it would result in the pipebombings, currently running at an average one a day, ending.

Last Wednesday, a Catholic woman working at a women’s center in a loyalist are of North Belfast area discovered a bomb on the back seat of her car, which she had parked outside the center.

She went to investigate a broken car window and found an object on the car seat. Not realizing the danger she was putting herself in, she removed the device from the car before someone suggested it might be a bomb. A group of 4-year-old children had to be evacuated while the device was defused.

Meanwhile, a Catholic family of six, including a pregnant woman, living in Bawnmore on the outskirts of North Belfast, also had a lucky escape after they discovered a bomb in a garbage bin.

Meehan said that there would be no republican reprisals after recent attacks on Catholics in Derry, Coleraine, Larne, Ballymena, Ballynahinch, Bangor, Whitehead, Bushmills, and North Belfast.

"No way is there going to be a kneejerk reaction from republicans. That would be a step backward for us," he said. Meehan also predicts the attacks will intensify as loyalist elements are "loosening up for the big push."

The UDA was also blamed for a pipebomb attack on a pub in Whitehead, Co. Antrim, last Saturday. Customers escaped injury when the device failed to explode after it was thrown at the premises. A sustained campaign of pipebombings has been taking place in the nearby town of Larne.

Two more pipebomb attacks on Catholic homes in Ballynahinch, Co. Down, were described as a blatant attempt at murder. A family of six was asleep when the first device exploded shortly after 2 a.m., smashing a window.

About 10 minutes later, a second device went off two doors away, near where neighbors had walked past to investigate the first blast. No one was injured.

Sinn Fein representative Francis Branniff claimed nationalists were being beaten up almost "every weekend" in the town.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese