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Monday, July 13, 1998 Published at 18:44 GMT 19:44 UK


Divisions that run deep

Another family uproots itself after sectarian threats

The tragic incident in Ballymoney which left three young children dead was the most serious in a series of similar attacks and threats.

The violence has highlighted once again what has been called "the cancer of sectarianism" in Northern Ireland.

To many living in the rest of the United Kingdom it is a situation which seems almost impossible to understand.

Yet it serves as a reminder that no matter how much the politicians talk, or the people vote yes to peace, Northern Ireland is a society with deep divisions.


[ image: The burnt out home of the Quinn brothers]
The burnt out home of the Quinn brothers
Around the corner from the Quinn family home where three young boys were murdered, a frightened Catholic family were loading their possessions into a removal van and getting away from the Carnany estate.

They were one of five families on the estate who had received threats from a loyalist terror group over the weekend.

The reason was simply because they had decided, as Catholics, to live on an estate predominately populated by Protestants.


[ image: Catholics in tears after the Ballymoney attack]
Catholics in tears after the Ballymoney attack
Carnany estate is not unique either. The last week has seen attacks across the province as the Drumcree stand off continues and the marching season reaches a climax.

Churches, schools and businesses have all been targets, but attacks on people's homes perhaps cut deepest.

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive has seen a massive increase in the numbers of families applying to be re-housed.

During one afternoon last week, police in riot gear had to accompany a number of Catholic families out of predominantly loyalist estates in Belfast, while on an Antrim estate removal men clearing a Catholic home were attacked by petrol bombers.


[ image: All forms of property have been attacked]
All forms of property have been attacked
The family who were leaving had lived there for 27 years.

Elsewhere Anne McWilliams lived in her Greenisland home for 32 years before she decided enough was enough.

Paint and a blast bomb were thrown at her house while her daughter's home just around the corner was also attacked.

For both women, it was the last straw and they decided to move out, although both were too frightened to speak about the experience.

Meanwhile Protestant families were also attacked.


[ image: A church attacked at the start of the most recent trouble]
A church attacked at the start of the most recent trouble
One, in Dungannon believed they were victims because they have Roman Catholic friends, another in Carrickfergus because they took in Catholic neighbours after their home had been attacked.

It seems the Quinn brothers paid the ultimate price for their mother's willingness to cross the apparent barrier between the two communities.

29-year-old Roman Catholic Christine Quinn was separated from her husband and was now with a Protestant partner, Thomas Craig, 31.

Less than 15% of all marriages in Northern Ireland are mixed, and such relationships are discouraged in Northern Ireland by extremists on both sides, sometimes with lethal persuasiveness.


[ image: The Housing Executive has had to find many temporary accommodation]
The Housing Executive has had to find many temporary accommodation
Bernadette Martin, an 18-year-old Catholic girl, was murdered just a year ago by a loyalist paramilitary gang for the simple reason that her boyfriend was a Protestant and she was in a Protestant area with him.

The three small Quinn brothers were born Catholic, but attended a Protestant school simply because it was the closest one to their homes.

Catholic neighbours of the Quinns said they had received parcels in the post containing bullets in recent weeks, and several other homes have been set on fire by unknown attackers.



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