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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 August, 2005, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Attacks prompt fire blankets move
Family's house was attacked by arsonists
Last week, a family's house was attacked by arsonists
Police have issued fire-resistant blankets and smoke alarms to Catholic families in a County Antrim village following fears about petrol bombings.

It follows a series of sectarian attacks in Ahoghill which were carried out by loyalists.

A PSNI spokesman said the action was "unprecedented". However, it was taken after fresh intelligence suggested more attacks on Catholics were imminent.

Security patrols have also been stepped up in the village.

Police have also visited a number of homes in Brookfield Gardens and Laurel Park estates to warn Catholic families that they are under threat.

The warnings follow several incidents of intimidation in the village.

Last week, a woman and her 25-year-old son were rescued from their home after an attack in Laurel Hill Park.

A window near the front door of their home was broken and petrol was poured in and set alight.

The occupants, who were upstairs at the time, escaped the blaze by climbing onto a porch and were rescued by a neighbour.

I don't know what smoke alarms and fire blankets are going to do. If they are going to burn me out, they will burn me out, it is as simple as that
Tony Graham

Another Catholic woman fled her home in the nearby Brookfield Gardens estate after a campaign of sectarian intimidation.

She had lived in the village for 50 years.

Her brother, Tony Graham, said he did not think a fire blanket would be of any use against attacks.

"I have lived in the village 46 years. I have never done anybody in the village any harm," he said.

"I never felt threatened in the estate up to now. Police were out giving me two smoke alarms and a fire blanket.

"I don't know what smoke alarms and fire blankets are going to do. If they are going to burn me out, they will burn me out, it is as simple as that."

Superintendent Terry Shevlin said police patrols had been increased in the area "quite significantly" and pointed out that two people were arrested last week.

"The people in Ahoghill can be assured of a routine and also an increased police patrolling as a result of this," he said.

"It is a serious matter and we want to try to prevent these sorts of attacks," he said.

Help call

He urged people in the community to help police to stop the attacks.

"People who carry out such attacks should have no hiding place. The ordinary decent people in Ahoghill should provide us with any information that they might know about it. We suspect the people who carried this out live in the community.

"We have increased our patrols in Ahoghill but the reality is we can't be there every minute of the day and that's why we took these measures.

"This was something tangible to provide people with a bit more reassurance."

The Mayor of Ballymena, Tommy Nicholl, DUP, said he "completely and wholeheartedly" condemned what was happening in Ahoghill.

He added that he also condemned statements made by some nationalists about band parades in Ballymena.

"The unionist and Protestant people feel 'betrayed'," he said.

"I would appeal to these people who are going down this road, to stop and to think 'This is not the way forward'."

Mr McNicholl said the vast majority of the people of Ahoghill were law abiding people.

SDLP councillor Declan O'Loan said the police action underlined the seriousness of the attacks and the threat to Catholics in Ahoghill.

"The only real form of protection the nationalist people of Ahoghill need is to stop having their lives and livelihoods threatened on an almost daily basis," he said.

"In recent weeks we have seen how loyalist thugs around Ahoghill and the wider area have stepped up their campaign of intimidation and hate. It is only a matter of time before this leads to tragic consequences."

Mr O'Loan called on everyone with influence in the unionist community to work to bring the attacks to an end.


SEE ALSO:
Appeal follows 'sectarian' attack
01 Aug 05 |  Northern Ireland
Woman flees after intimidation
11 Jul 05 |  Northern Ireland


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