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Sectarian attacks at interface fall

(William Graham, Irish News)

Nationalist and unionist politicians have welcomed new police statistics revealing summer sectarian attacks along Derry's only west bank interface have fallen dramatically.

The number of sectarian attacks in the Fountain estate area this summer fell by 81% compared to the same period last year.

Sectarian attacks in the Fountain, the last remaining Protestant estate on Derry's cityside, and the surrounding Catholic Bishop Street/Long Tower area escalated during the marching season in recent years.

This year's dramatic fall has been attributed to the efforts of community leaders and political representatives on both sides.

Police say disturbances related to specific parades in the city also fell with petrol bombings, criminal damage, assaults and hoax bombs calls around July 12 down three per cent. Similar incidents also fell by a quarter during the Apprentice Boys of Derry annual city centre march.

Derry's police chief Superintendent Johnny McCarroll praised community leaders on both sides of the divide.

While tensions remained, he expressed hope that the figures reflected a thaw in cross-community relations and indicated increased tolerance.

Mr McCarroll said there was still work to do but said Derry could become a model for community relations if everyone did "not take their eye off the ball".

And Derry's sector policing manager, Inspector Milton Kerr, singled out partnership groups for praise but warned: "We can't afford to be complacent".

Former SDLP mayor Pat Ramsey said he was not surprised by the figures.

"Credit must go to the young people and to community leaders who have worked tirelessly to reduce tensions," he said.

"It's a great advertisement for community relations in the city."

DUP councillor Willie Hay said the statistics were "great news" for everyone in the city.

"People inside and outside the Fountain will welcome this. But that is not to take away from the seriousness of some incidents. The good work must continue," he said.

Sinn Féin councillor Peter Anderson also welcomed the figures and said the credit for improving inter-community relations should go to organisations which provided youth programmes.

"This work will continue and recent weeks and months will have given great encouragement to those activists, parents and young people who have provided such effective leadership to their communities," he said.

August 25, 2003

This article appeared first in the August 23, 2003 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News