By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — A summer of violence in Northern Ireland is turning to an autumn of the same with a wave of loyalist gun, bomb and missile attacks resulting in multiple injuries and forcing families from their homes.
The assistant chief constable of the RUC, Alan McQuillan, said the street violence has been the worst in 20 years and that unless talks with community representatives can reach agreement, people may be killed.
The violence has been particularly bad in North Belfast, with signs of nationalist retaliation against loyalists. Two Protestants, one a woman waiting at a busstop, the other a man from a nearby loyalist area, were injured over the weekend.
Loyalists threw stones, bottles, fireworks, pipe and blast bombs from early Saturday afternoon from the loyalist Tigers’ Bay area of North Belfast. Automatic gunfire was also heard in the area. At least one Catholic family has moved out.
Catholic homes were showered with pipe bombs in Newington Street in North Belfast, at least five of which exploded. Another three were found unexploded on Monday. Fifteen RUC officers were injured in the rioting.
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Shots were fired during loyalist assaults on nationalists at another interface. A 9-year-old boy was hit by a brick on the Limestone Road. A number of workmen escaped injury when a pipe bomb exploded at a community center in Ardoyne.
Sinn Fein councilor Margaret McClenaghan blamed the UDA for the attacks, which she said were aimed at provoking a reaction from the nationalist side. The clashes came as loyalists prepared to resume their protest at Holy Cross girls’ primary school in Ardoyne, now in its fourth week.
Six loyalists have been charged with fighting and causing an affray at the protest, two of whom are members of the residents group organizing the protest. One of them is also charged with possession of an offensive weapon, namely a golf club.
Since the arrests, the loyalist residents have called off their talks with British government representatives and have intensified their protest by withdrawing all marshals from the protest.
Sinn FTin’s Gerry Kelly has warned people to be vigilant after the “Red Hand Defenders” (a cover name for the UDA) warned of pipe bomb attacks on Catholic Schools in north Belfast.
“This is a further attempt by the UDA, using the Red Hand Defenders cover name, to intimidate, injure and kill Catholic schoolchildren and their parents,” Kelly said. “The escalation in the targeting of young children by loyalists is a direct response to the equivocation of unionist politicians and the British government.”
He accused the UDA of orchestrating the violence. “It’s a concerted attack on Catholics and it’s getting worse,” he said. “Children and adults are getting attacked in their homes and there has been a minimum of 10 pipe-bomb attacks over the weekend.”
Residents of Hillman Street, whose homes face Tiger’s Bay, said they were awoken at 3 a.m. Sunday by the noise of paint bombs and rocks hitting windows and landing on roofs.
Shatter-proof window frames installed just last week were splattered with paint as were the walls and front yards. Another pipe-bomb was thrown at a group of children playing near the interface.
Meanwhile, anti-agreement loyalists are believed to be planning to mobilize thousands at Orange Order parade flashpoints and are drawing up a new “Ulster Covenant.” They are planning a “Grand Protestant Rally” in Ballymena Town Hall this Friday to unveil a document vowing to use “all means necessary” to defend the Protestant culture and faith.
The guest speakers at the gathering will include Enniskillen bomb victim Jim Dixon and hard-line Stoneyford Orangeman Mark Harbinson, who has called the Orange Order stand at Garvaghy Road the “Protestant Alamo.”
Harbinson said all present on Friday will be asked to sign a pact, similar to the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant, signed in 1912. “This covenant will enable thousands of loyalists to gather in areas, where our parades are being banned from walking along the Queen’s Highway,” he said.
“It will also be an expression of unity, because those who sign it will be pledging support, and to use all means necessary to ensure no more erosion of our culture and faith.”