14 April 2005

Daily Ireland

Loyalists petrol bomb Belfast hotel

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A petrol bomb attack on a Belfast hotel which forced the evacuation of 150 guests yesterday has been blamed on loyalist paramilitaries.
A PSNI source said detectives are working on the theory that the attack was carried out by individual members of a loyalist group in south Belfast.
Five petrol bombs were thrown at the Days Hotel in Hope Street at around 4am yesterday.
Damage was caused to the front and side of the hotel.
Smoke travelled to the third, fourth and fifth floors of the hotel, which is situated close to the loyalist Sandy Row area.
Fire Officer Harry Dawson said it was a very serious situation.
“There were five petrol bombs in total thrown at Days Hotel, directed to the back of the hotel, convenient to the oil tank and basement area,” he said.
Panicked guests were quickly evacuated from the hotel.
“Police do not believe the attack was carried out on behalf of any loyalist organisation," the PSNI source said.
“However, we are working on the theory that individuals connected to paramilitaries may have been involved."
Loyalist paramilitaries have been behind a series of racist attacks in south Belfast including distributing racist leaflets and petrol-bombing homes.
Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine said he didn’t know who was behind the petrol bombing, but said it was a “shocking and stupid attack".
“This is an incredibly nearsighted and unbelievably stupid attack," said Mr Ervine. “I cannot work out the motives of the people involved but whoever they are, they are morons.
“This could have cost lives and it sends out an appalling message to visitors.”
The hotel owner, Lord Rana, said immediately after the attack he did not believe loyalists were responsible.
However, he called on the PSNI to get on top of the situation.
“It is more annoying than worrying – the security situation needs to be dealt with by the PSNI," he said.
“In Sandy Row we are the only company who have made a major investment, who have helped to regenerate the area and have created more employment in that area.
“It is more a community issue. Community leaders and people living in the area – they need to look at the whole situation and deal with it," he said.
“We could deal with the situation. We could reconsider our future plans and decide if we really want to invest in that area or not," he said.
The Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau (BVCB) said such attacks hinder their work.
“While such events don't help, BVCB is confident that by continuing its promotional strategy we will be able to attract visitors,” said a spokesman.

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