SF concerned by ‘lack of action’ against loyalists

There is considerable concern in the nationalist community at the lack of action by the security forces to deal with loyalist violence in North Belfast, a Sinn Fein Assembly member said tonight.

There is considerable concern in the nationalist community at the lack of action by the security forces to deal with loyalist violence in North Belfast, a Sinn Fein Assembly member said tonight.

The party’s policing spokesman, Gerry Kelly, criticised police and army tactics against republicans over the Castlereagh police station break-in, contrasting it with their action to deal with loyalists behind recent disturbances in North Belfast.

Emerging from talks with the Northern Ireland Office Security Minister, Jane Kennedy, the North Belfast MLA said: ‘‘There has been an onslaught from the Ulster Defence Association with over 30 bomb and gun attacks in one night and an escalating campaign of violence in the Whitewell area of the city.

‘‘Nationalists are contrasting the failure to arrest those responsible with the very heavy-handed tactics against republicans over the Castlereagh break-in.

‘‘We have seen doors being kicked in in nationalist and republican homes and people being interrogated and yet there doesn’t seem to be the same vigour in pursuing loyalists over their campaign of violence.

‘‘People are entitled to ask why.’’

Mr Kelly reiterated the view of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams that there was no evidence of republican involvement in the Castlereagh break-in.

He said both nationalists and republicans believed the recent arrests were a smokescreen to deflect the finger of suspicion away from the security services.

The North Belfast MLA said his discussions with the NIO Security Minister were unsatisfactory.

He had raised recent complaints by nationalists living in the New Lodge area of North Belfast against the police over their handling of recent street disturbances involving loyalists, including alleged beatings captured on video.

He had also pointed to recent sectarian attacks in the area.

‘‘The minister defended the police and insisted there was police accountability,’’ he reported.

‘‘Even if you talk about CCTV on the streets, it is worth bearing in mind that the RUC had video cameras on jeeps for years now and still sectarian violence goes on.’’

Mr Kelly moved to reassure staff and parents in a Protestant primary school near the flash-point Limestone Road that a threat purporting to be from the Catholic Reaction Force was not supported by nationalists and republicans.

‘‘I doubt that it is even genuine,’’ the Sinn Fein MLA said.

‘‘There is a strong belief out there that the Catholic Reaction Force is a non-existent, fabricated group dreamt up by the UDA.

‘‘I want to make it clear that parents, children and teachers should be allowed to guarantee their children’s education safely without any threat or intimidation and I will be contacting representatives of the school to assure them that as far as the nationalist and republican community is concerned there can be no threat against them.’’

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