The Silent War
Originally published between July 19th and 22nd, 2001
After another sickening litany of sectarian attacks by loyalists in the last few days, Sinn Féin chief negotiator Mr Martin McGuinness has accused unionist leaders of remaining silent about violence against Catholics.
A creche, a church, a hospital, and a sports club were among the targets of loyalist bombers, gunmen, and arsonists.
Families living near loyalist areas are being terrorised on a daily basis, and tensions have reached boiling point.
"The unionists are not jumping up and down about the ongoing attacks on the Catholic community," McGuinness said.
"David Trimble and many leaders within his party, and Mr Paisley and others, are absolutely silent about these attacks whilst at the same time they are jumping up and down effectively about the guns that are silent."
PLAY-SCHOOL SPRAYED WITH BULLETS
Children and staff at a north Belfast playgroup were lucky to escape unharmed when two men riddled the door of their play room in the Ashton Centre around 9:30 AM.
Some children hid in a toy cupboard as gunfire raked the entrance to the cross-comunity after-school club in Churchill Street.
"We all huddled together in the cupboard and tried not to make any noise," said Anya Connor, one of the centre's volunteers. "We stayed there until the girls from the creche upstairs shouted for us to get out."
Two community workers ran for their lives when the gunmen, wearing black scarves over their faces, fired eight shots into the centre shortly before 9:30 AM.
The centre was more quiet than usual, as it was a Friday and parents were still bringing their children in. Half-an-hour later and the centre would have been swarming with potential victims.
"They came in to kill whomever they could get their hands on," said one man, who was too afraid to return to work.
Five people were treated for shock after the attack, which was later claimed by the Red Hand Defenders. It said it considered "all nationalist people as hostile and legitimate targets."
But nationalist politicians have said that it was clear that the Lower Shankill UDA were behind the shooting.
"There is massive anger and shock at this attack which was against cross-community workers who are trying to bridge the gap of sectarianism, unlike those who carried out the shooting," said Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast Gerry Kelly.
"It is clear that this shooting is the work of the so-called C Company of the Lower Shankill. They have been stoking this up for three weeks now. This is a sinister development where guns are brought into community centres and fired indiscriminately."
HOSPITAL STAFF ATTACKED
Staff at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital were assaulted, spat upon and had their lives threatened by a loyalist murder gang on Saturday morning.
Health workers' union Unison said the incidents had left members injured and traumatised.
Spokeswoman Patricia McKeown warned that some night staff may stay away from the hospital - threatening emergency provision - if they weren't guaranteed protection.
Bairbre de Brun, minister for health, social services and public safety, last night said she was very concerned by the "disgraceful scenes."
"This is a very serious incident where staff have been intimidated, threatened and physically attacked and the smooth running of the hospital disrupted," she said.
"Hospital staff and others who work in the health and social services come from all sections of the community. They are there to treat everyone regardless of class or creed. Staff must be allowed to deliver services without abuse or threat."
CATHOLIC CHURCH BOMBED
A Catholic church in County Tyrone was bombed on Sunday morning.
One window was broken at the rear of St Eugene's church in Newtownstewart when a pipe bomb exploded around 4 AM. Debris from the explosion, which scattered both inside and outside the church, were discovered when caretakers arrived to prepare the church for 11 AM Sunday Mass.
Parish Priest Fr Stephen Kearney decided to go ahead with Mass after parishioners helped clear away some of the debris. He said as many as three pipe bombs were thrown at the church.
Catholic-owned businesses in Newtownstewart were targetted by a mob of up to 80 loyalists in the early hours of the July 12th, the high point of the Protestant marching calendar. Although the church had been targeted by stone throwers before, this was the most serious incident to date.
"I am hearing the silence of parade organisers very clearly. They have a responsibility to help ensure tension created over the marching season is not followed up by such violence," said Father Kearney. "This was the work of a minority who don't want to listen but raise fear, intimidation and tension.
West Tyrone assembly member Barry McElduff said Sinn Féin would present a submission to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern concerning the "upsurge" in loyalist activity later this week.
"Nationalist homes, businesses and property in the Newtownstewart area have come under sustained attack in recent weeks.
"This loyalist aggression is trying to send a message to nationalists that they are second-class citizens in Newtownstewart. It is our job to ensure their human rights are respected," he said.
FLASHPOINT ATTACKS UNABATED
A series of attacks have followed disturbances in east Belfast and at "peace lines" in the north of the city last week. Some nationalist residents were forced to flee their homes as heavy rioting followed intense loyalist provocation.
Many homes along Serpentine Road and Serpentine Gardens were damaged in the rioting.
An 81-year-old pensioner, recovering after a heart attack, was in shock after the riots. A mixed-marriage couple, fled their home in the middle of the night with their two children.
The father said: "It was a miracle no-one was killed. The man next door was lucky. I had to run to tell him his roof was on fire. He didn't know and there were two kids in the house.
"We had to flee and put a quilt over the children to get out to cover them from the petrol bombs. It was the worst violence I'd seen here and it was definitely started by loyalists."
Coffee-jar type devices were thrown at houses in the Serpentine Gardens area of north Belfast, while a variety of missiles were hurled at Catholic homes in Duncairn Gardens on Saturday night and in the early hours of Sunday morning.
A pipe bomb exploded at the back of a house in north Belfast at the weekend, the second attack on the home of the Catholic family this week.
The device was thrown at the back of the Westland Gardens home. It hit a reinforced upstairs window, fell and exploded on the back patio. The house is the first within reach from a neighbouring loyalist estate.
Nail bombs were used to attack homes on Deerpark Road and the Newtonards Road in east Belfast. And two petrol bombs exploded in front of a house at Cupar Street in a daily routine by loyalists running through a gate from the Protestant Lawnbrook Avenue.
Frances McAuley of the Springfield Residents Association said the people of the area are living in fear.
"They don't know where to turn. They are getting the usual response from the RUC."
LISBURN FAMILY TERRORISED
A severely handicapped man and a four year-old boy were among the seven people inside a house when a pipe-bomb was thrown at a Catholic family home in Lisburn, County Antrim, early this morning.
The front door and porch of the home at Barnfield Grange, Derryaghey, was damaged after the attack took place at around 2:45 AM.
Ms Christine Curran, who has lived at the address for the past seven years, pleaded for her family to be left alone and said she did not know who would target the family.
* Loyalists were blamed for starting a fire which destroyed a County Down Gaelic sports club on Thursday night. The club, built 25 years ago, had received several threats recently.
* A tyre [tire] depot was devastated in a blaze in Armagh city on Wednesday night. Loyalist arsonists were blamed for the attack.
* A grandfather arriving for a family visit in Coleraine, County Derry, had a lucky escape yesterday morning when he picked up an unexploded pipe bomb on their doorstep. Another device was later declared a hoax this morning.
* Bomb experts also carried out controlled explosions on pipe-bombs in Portadown and in Armagh city.
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