By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST – The Real IRA claimed their first victim since the Omagh bombing when they murdered a civilian construction worker on August 1st. David Caldwell, a former UDR soldier and father of four daughters, died of horrific injuries in Co. Derry.
The 51-year-old victim suffered multiple injuries to his hands, arms and stomach after picking up a booby-trap device, disguised in a lunchbox, in a temporary building at the disused base.
The dead man, a Protestant who lived in the nearby village of Eglinton, had just arrived for work in the barracks at Caw, on the Limavady Road in Derry, which was undergoing renovation.
The incident was almost identical to one at the Magilligan army base last February, in which a civilian worker, known to the latest victim, was injured, losing both his arms.
The attack, believed to have been carried out by the breakaway dissident “Real IRA,” was very widely condemned.
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The dead man’s wife, Mavis McFaul, tearfully begged for no retaliation, but the Red Hand Defenders, a cover-name for the UDA, has already threatened revenge.
Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, in an strong condemnation, said the killing was “absolutely and totally wrong. These attacks, whether by rejectionist loyalists or dissident republicans, are attacks on the peace process and must be condemned in the most forthright and unequivocal terms.”
“Who I am actually challenging, are those people within our community who are anti-Agreement – a legitimate point of view – but anti-agreement and in support of the ongoing killing campaign against the backdrop of a peace process.”
McGuinness said he could not understand how the murder could advance a united Ireland and denied those responsible were republicans.
Gregory Campbell, the DUP MP for the area, claimed British Prime Minister Tony Blair could no longer argue the peace process was working.
“The (British) government has to stop living the lie,” he said.
The bomb is the latest in a series of attacks on British Army bases in and around Derry. Within the last two years the dissidents have been blamed for explosions at Ebrington, Magilligan and Ballykelly barracks.
The Northern Secretary, John Reid described the attack as “utterly contemptible. Dissident republican bombers and loyalist murder gangs are two sides of the same coin”, he said, “None of us in Northern Ireland can afford to let them succeed.”
The UUP and SDLP leaders, David Trimble and Mark Durkan said: “Once again, we have seen how the actions of those opposed to peace bring pain and suffering to an innocent family. Those who placed this device have nothing positive to offer the people of Northern Ireland.”
Derry Assembly member, and Sinn Fein chairperson, Mitchel McLaughlin, said: “If as is being speculated this action is proven to be the work of what is referred to as dissident republicans I call on those involved to desist from further actions and disband.”
“Their actions serve only to bolster the agenda of those in the British military and political establishment that are opposed to the peace process. We also urge unionist politicians to use their influence to have similar anti-Agreement groups from the unionist constituency to disband.”
Meanwhile, hospital workers have been put on alert following a series of death threats. The loyalist “Red Hand Defenders”, a cover name for the UDA, threatened Catholic hospital workers at the Mater and Ulster hospitals.
This followed an apparently bogus republican death threat that was phoned in to the Mater and Royal Victoria hospitals in Belfast, without a codeword, on behalf of the little-known “Catholic Reaction Force.”
In a joint statement hospital management and trade union officials called on the public to “voice their concerns on behalf of health workers everywhere and demand that these threats be removed immediately.”
News of the warnings came 48 hours after an anti-sectarian trade union rally in Belfast, called by Belfast Lord Mayor, Alex Maskey, who himself received a bullet in the mail from the loyalist Orange Volunteer Force a day before the rally.
Maskey said he was concerned, but would not be intimidated, by the death threat.
“It just ironic on the day that you’re trying to establish a campaign on anti-sectarianism that yet again you become a victim almost of more sectarianism.”
“So I think it’s just important to highlight that this sectarian problem is still rampant with us but as far as I’m concerned it certainly will not detract me from doing what I know that I have to do as a civic leader.”
Postal staff in Derry have agreed to return to work following a threat to a Catholic worker. Around 130 employees at the Great James Street sorting office ended their weekend suspension of services which almost paralyzed city services