12 August 2005

Get tough over loyalist violence, Orde urged


12/08/2005 - 12:28:39

The North's most senior policeman was today urged to adopt a get-tough attitude to loyalist paramilitary leaders following a recent wave of sectarian attacks.

The call to Hugh Orde came as members of several Protestant churches in Ballymena joined in a clean-up operation at a Catholic church targeted by loyalist paint-bombers, and continued to express their outrage.

Meanwhile, the SDLP confirmed, ahead of a meeting with the PSNI’s Chief Constable, that it was also seeking a meeting with the British government about concerted action against loyalist gangs.

North Antrim Assembly member Sean Farren said: “We have had a wave of attacks from Lisburn to the north of the county and as far as Coleraine and it has got to be stopped and stopped now.

“The church in Harryville (in Ballymena) has been paint-bombed three times in as many weeks and the situation in Ahoghill has been particularly alarming.

“While the so-called republican parade didn’t help and has certainly made the situation worse, the problem of sectarianism and loyalist violence in north and mid- Antrim runs much deeper.

“I welcome the forthright condemnations by Protestant churchmen and some unionist politicians, but the immediate situation requires much stronger cross-community action. This violence is organised and orchestrated and it is spreading and I fear that lives are at risk. It is time for dialogue explicitly aimed at stopping it.”

Following a recent spate of threats and arson attacks in the Co Antrim village of Ahoghill, police have issued fire blankets to Catholic families.

Sinn Féin councillor Dessie Ward’s home in Banbridge, Co Down, was also targeted by petrol-bombers.

The Ulster Volunteer Force has been engaged in a bloody feud in Belfast with the rival Loyalist Volunteer Force, which has claimed the lives of three people.

SDLP deputy leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said the British government, police and society needed to face down loyalist gangs.

“Violent loyalism can be defeated by stern police action, by removing their criminally acquired assets which fund the lavish lifestyles of the brigadiers, and by denying them the cover of spurious ceasefires,” the South Belfast MP said.

“In the absence of the Secretary of State, I have sought a meeting with Lord Rooker to ensure the government is fully aware of the scale and extent of threat to Catholic homes, churches and lives in Antrim and elsewhere.”

Hugh Orde was also due today to meet a delegation from the Rev Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists to discuss their security concerns in the wake of the IRA’s declaration that it is ending its armed campaign and the subsequent moves by the British government to scale down the British Army presence.

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