Thursday, August 11, 2005

Loyalist ‘general threat’

Connla Young:

A number of Catholics in a Co Antrim village have been forced to flee their homes after the PSNI confirmed they are under threat from loyalist paramilitaries.

In an unprecedented move, the PSNI has handed out fire blankets and smoke detectors to five Catholic residents in the loyalist Brookfield Gardens estate in Ahoghill, near Ballymena, because of what they the described as a “general threat” to households “occupied by Catholics”.

It is understood PSNI officers also advised homeowners what window they should jump from if they are targeted in a loyalist murder bid.

Several of those issued with the PSNI threat notice are believed to have left their homes yesterday.

The drastic PSNI action comes just a week after Oonagh Donaghy and her son Mark were forced to flee their burning home in the middle of the night after it was torched in a loyalist arson attack. Last month Mrs Donaghy’s aunt Kathleen McCaughey abandoned her Ahoghill home of 50 years after being targeted by loyalists on several occasions in recent years.

Since July, there have been six paint attacks on Catholic churches in the wider Ballymena area, while earlier this week Catholic families were targeted in two pipe bomb attacks at Cloughmills, just a few miles from the mainly unionist town.

Pubs in nearby Rasharkin and Martinstown have also been targeted by loyalists in recent weeks.

Last night the PSNI said they were unable to provide figures for the number of made by officers investigating sectarian attacks in the Ballymena area since the beginning of July.

North Antrim Sinn Féin councillor Daithí McKay said the recent threats in Ahoghill came from the UDA.

“There are only a handful of Catholics left in this estate and if they are targeted to the same degree as others they will also be burned out and that is the reality. It also worth noting that the MP for the area, Ian Paisley, is nowhere to be seen. He has a lot of influence in this area and he should now use it to bring this campaign to an end.”

The SDLP’s Declan O’Loan slammed those behind the attack.

“It underlines the seriousness of the attacks and the threat that remains to Catholic families in Ahoghill and the surrounding area. The only real form of protection the nationalist people of Ahoghill need is to stop having their lives and livelihoods threatened on an almost daily basis.

“In recent weeks we have seen how loyalist thugs around Ahoghill and the wider area have stepped up their campaign of intimidation and hate.

“It is only a matter of time before this leads to tragic consequences. I am calling on all those with influence in the unionist community to work to bring this vile campaign to an end. The fact that the police deem the situation serious enough to take this action should be more than enough reason for them to do so now.”

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