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Belfast politicians condemn gasoline-bomb attacks on Protestant homes

Belfast politicians condemn gasoline-bomb attacks on Protestant homes

Catholic youths who have been attacking Protestant homes in one polarized part of Belfast could have burned to death a newborn baby, residents and politicians warned Wednesday after the latest violence in the Northern Ireland capital.
Police said nobody was hurt when Molotov cocktails were thrown overnight at two homes in the Protestant section of Ardoyne, an otherwise Catholic district in north Belfast that has suffered from bitter sectarian divisions since the late 1960s.
One of the gasoline-filled bottles burst into flame outside a living room window where a man was sitting on a sofa beside his 18-day-old boy.
"I just saw a flash beside the window and looked up and heard the bang and saw the flames," said the man, who spoke on condition he not be identified. "I just grabbed the child, ran up the stairs and rang the police. If the petrol bomb had come through the window, he would have been burned to death."
Such attacks on the Protestant section of Ardoyne have intimidated many families from the area and gradually reduced the size of the Protestant section. Several homes and vehicles along the chief Protestant-occupied street, Twaddell Avenue, have been damaged this year.
Sectarian tensions in Ardoyne became an international news story in 2000 and 2001, when Protestant hard-liners blockaded the Catholic girls' elementary school on Twaddell Avenue for several months, provoking ugly confrontations and spasms of street violence. At the time, the Protestant demonstrators said they were trying to draw attention to attacks on their own homes.
Catholic leaders said Wednesday that the recent intimidation of Protestant residents must stop.
"The fact remains that this attack could have led to deaths, including the death of an 18-day-old baby," said Margaret McClenaghan, who represents Ardoyne on Belfast City Council for Sinn Fein, the major Catholic-backed party.
She called for "political leadership on the ground and ongoing community dialogue to ensure that we make better progress in ending the tensions across these interface areas."
Dividing lines between British Protestant and Irish Catholic parts of Belfast, called "interfaces," are usually marked by barricades of brick, steel and barbed wire known as "peace lines." There are about 20 in Belfast, a city of 700,000.
While the past 14 years of peacemaking in Northern Ireland has achieved much progress _ including Irish Republican Army disarmament, the withdrawal of British troops and a new Catholic-Protestant government _ the number of "peace lines" in Belfast has expanded and not one has been dismantled.


Updated : 2021-03-01 00:47 GMT+08:00