13 January 2006

'We Were Attacked For Being Friendly With Catholics' - Claims Fountain Resident

Derry Journal

By Ellen Doherty
Friday 13th January 2006

This time last week Helen Wray was pottering around her Kennedy Place home. It was like any other Friday and Helen was preparing for the weekend and hoping to take a walk into town. Now, one week later Helen is homeless and staying with her daughter temporarily. Her home burned down because, she claims, she allows her daughters to have Catholic boyfriends.

"I've learned to accept things like this," said a tired looking Helen, speaking from her daughter's home yesterday. "I haven't been sleeping at all since." Helen has no doubt as to why she was targeted. " Its because I allowed my girls to have Catholic friends" she said. As Helen explained, this is not the first time she has her home and family were attacked. She said: "Not so long ago a brick was thrown through my window where my daughter, who was pregnant, was asleep. My daughters were also beaten." Helen told the Journal that she tried to lead a quiet life in her home in Kennedy place until the fire. "The only people I really spoke to were my neighbours, and apart from this I kept myself to myself" she said. "There were nice people living beside me and I have nothing against any of them. I'm glad none of them were injured in the fire. I wouldn't like to see any of them hurt."

Helen's fifteen year old daughter Nicole suffers from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of several attacks on their home although Helen admitted that last weeks attack was the most serious. "Last Friday I had to call the police because they'd been throwing paving stones at my house all evening. Myself and my daughter were trapped in the house until 1.30 am when the police got us out."
It was just hours after this when the house, at Kennedy Place, was completely gutted in a fire which police are still investigating and treating as suspicious. There had been speculation that an assault which happened in the area at the same time was linked to the fire. However Helen is adamant that the two incidents are not linked. "I was told that the boy who was assaulted was involved in the fire, but I know he wasn't. I don't know him at all but my heart goes out to his parents, it would be totally unfair for him to be linked to this." Sinn FÈin Councillor Maeve McLaughlin has said that the attitude of community and political leaders in the Fountain Estate as well as the PSNI to the attacking and burning of a family home shows, she alleged, that they are prepared to accept Unionist violence. Councillor McLaughlin accused police and community leaders of failing to offer Mrs Wray adequate protection.

"The attack on the home of Mrs Wray in the Fountain Estate by a Unionist mob who first assaulted her daughters was based on the fact that they were friendly with Catholics" she said. "Questions need to be asked why the PSNI stood back and allowed the mob who attacked the young girls previously to burn the property to the ground. Many of the mob hung around the area for ages while covering their faces with scarves before the house was burned. Not only did they allow this but they also attempted to portray the incident as part of an alleged sectarian attack on a home in the Fountain earlier in the week.

"I would also question the willingness of political and community leaders to confront these Unionist sectarian attitudes. I have not heard the type of condemnation that is deserving of a case of this seriousness but have heard feeble reasons in an attempt to justify it. "All sectarian attacks are wrong and unless we all stand up and face them down together no matter where they emanate from it will continue to happen. The Unionist political and community leaders must stand up and confront the sectarian attitudes that prevail within their areas rather than making lame excuses for these thugs."

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