Garvagh Catholic tells of daily hell

(Roddy McGregor, Irish News)

Police rejected claims yesterday (Tuesday) that they had not done enough to tackle sectarian attacks on Catholic residents of the Co Derry village of Garvagh.

Residents of the town contacted the Irish News following yesterday's report that the Catholic owned Clock Bar has closed after a series of loyalist attacks on staff, customers and property.

One man, who asked not to be identified, said Catholics in the predominantly Protestant town suffered "almost daily hell" from a small loyalist gang.

He said young Catholics left the town "en masse" every weekend to avoid being attacked by the gang.

He said the streets of Garvagh were "simply a no go area" for Catholics in the aftermath of loyal order marches.

The man, who has lived in Garvagh all his life, said he was proud to come from the town despite the sectarian attacks and intimidation.

"Everyone in Garvagh knows who these people are and I mean everyone including the police," he said.

"I have many good and loyal Protestant friends who are affronted by what is happening, but they, like me, cannot be identified because we know what will happen.

"It's hard to imagine the terror these people inflict on residents and business people who have lived and operated here all their lives.

"People have been beaten senseless, windows are regularly smashed, doors kicked in and cars attacked, but the police never do anything about it despite being told time and again.

"Ordinary people, both Catholic and Protestant, are fed up but at the same time wondering what they can do. People are just ready to flip."

A police spokesman confirmed that a number of reports of sectarian intimidation and attacks on Catholics and Catholic property in Garvagh had been investigated in recent months.

But he rejected the claim that police had failed to act on the complaints.

"Police have acted on those reports and people were identified as being involved in those incidents," he said.

"However, no statements were forthcoming and we were unable to proceed due to lack of evidence.

"Police thoroughly investigate all assaults, sectarian or otherwise. But we need the full cooperation of the community to bring such cases before the courts."

August 21, 2004

This article appeared first in the August 18, 2004 edition of the Irish News.

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