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Sectarian incidents double in past year

(Sharon O'Neill, Irish News)

The number of sectarian crimes has more than doubled in the last year. Latest police statistics point to a deteriorating situation, synonymous with the Troubles, is getting worse.

Earlier this year The Irish News revealed that sectarian attacks were continuing to take place on a shockingly high level in the first official record of incidents compiled by police.

New statistics now show that the situation is getting worse.

From April 1 to August 31 this year, 726 sectarian incidents were reported – almost five a day.

The disturbing figure is more than double that for the previous six months, which stood at 339 – an average of two per day.

Police classification of 'sectarian incidents' ranges from verbal abuse to bomb attacks and attempted murders.

A sectarian motive is a "significant line of inquiry" in the killing in August of north Belfast Catholic teenager Thomas Devlin.

The summer, which was marred by serious violence during the marching season, saw an intense increase in sectarianism which has spilled outside Belfast to Co Antrim and Co Derry.

Out of 42 incidents in the Ballymena district more than half were against the Catholic community.

A number of families were forced to flee their homes following attacks in Ahoghill.

Although the figures for across the north are not broken down

by community, it is generally accepted the majority of attacks were carried out by loyalists.

However, the Protestant community has not escaped sectarianism with some attacks coming from the Catholic community in north Belfast, the greater Ballymena area and Derry.

A clearer picture of paramilitary involvement will be revealed by the Independent Monitoring Commission next month.

Its report yesterday (Thursday), which detailed violence linked to the UVF/LVF feud, noted that it had not dealt with the "dreadful sectarian attacks over this time nor with the wider loyalist picture".

Already this month there have been a number of sectarian attacks. Loyalists were yesterday blamed for a petrol-bomb attack on the home of a Catholic mother on the outskirts of north Belfast.

Police are also treating as sectarian two separate attacks in the north west on Wednesday night when a care worker had paint poured over her car while tending to a Co Tyrone pensioner and an assault on three Catholic boys.

The extent of the problem was highlighted by a judge while sentencing a Co Antrim loyalist for the attempted murder of a Catholic.

Accusing politicians of "cynically exploiting" sectarianism Mr Justice Coghlin said: "As the tide of terrorism abates, sectarianism re-emerged, oozing forth again to corrupt another generation."

September 25, 2005

This article appeared first in the September 23, 2005 edition of the Irish News.

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