Sectarian Attacks Keep Bitterness, Fear Simmering
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ The Lismores thought surveillance cameras, window grilles and a ``panic button″ connected to a nearby police station would deter attacks by Protestant neighbors.
But on Sunday, vandals struck the Lismore home for the 57th time since 1988. This time, they splashed the front door with gasoline and set it on fire, filling the house with smoke as the Catholic family was about to sit down to dinner.
Despite cease-fires last year by the Catholic-based IRA and pro-British ``loyalist″ gangs on the Protestant side, Northern Ireland’s sectarian violence _ which paused just long enough last week to let President Clinton come and go in peace _ rages on.
Bombs are planted outside Catholic chapels, Protestant meeting halls are burned down, Catholics are attacked if they stray into Protestant areas _ but the mayhem goes unclaimed by either side.
The attacks on Stephen and Angela Lismore’s residence highlight the determination of Protestant extremists to keep Northern Ireland’s growing Catholic population from moving into Protestant areas.
Black’s Road in west Belfast divides the area’s only Protestant enclave, Suffolk, from a stretch of newer middle-class homes occupied mostly by Catholics. The Lismore home is the nearest to Suffolk.
The attacks started in 1988 when a grenade was thrown into the Lismore’s back yard. Another bomb, hidden in a doll house, was defused. Gangs twice sledge-hammered down their front door. Their car was torched in their driveway.
For their part, Suffolk Protestants complain that the other side is trying to force them out. In May, Catholics marching to honor Bobby Sands, who died in the IRA prison hunger strikes in 1981, were stopped by Protestant protesters outside Suffolk. That night, a gang smashed a dozen cars in the Protestant neighborhood.
However, most attacks have gone the other way.
``Our taxis are being stoned by hooligans from that estate in full view of the police,″ said Jim Neeson, a Catholic and director of the West Belfast Taxi Association. ``Our passengers and drivers are in danger.″
The taxis are particular targets because the association was formed by men arrested and held without trial as IRA suspects.
A moderate Catholic politician and the leader of the Ulster Democratic Party, affiliated with the Protestants’ Ulster Defense Association, visited the Lismores on Tuesday, sounded out Suffolk residents, and hoped to get the two sides to meet later this week.
They’ll have a lot of suspicions to sort out.
``My children were in a terrible state. My wee girl was squealing her head off,″ Mrs. Lismore said of the Sunday attack.
Stephen Lismore’s mother, Elizabeth, fled the home four years ago after gasoline bombs on successive nights. She is caring for her three grandchildren in her new home in a solidly Catholic area.
``There’s no cease-fire for my children being attacked like this,″ she said. ``The troubles just go on.″