Dáil Éireann - Volume 548 - 07 February, 2002

Written Answers. - Northern Ireland Issues.

  29. Ms McManus asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the representations he has made to the British authorities regarding continued sectarian violence in the north Belfast area; the response he has received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3758/02]

  Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): The Government remains deeply concerned about the high levels of sectarian violence in north Belfast. Much of it has been associated with the protest along the route to Holy Cross girls' primary school in Ardoyne, which started in late June 2001, resumed the following September and continued for a further 12 weeks, with appalling sectarian abuse and physical intimidation being directed at the school children and their parents throughout.

  On Wednesday, 9 January last, rioting broke out near the school and the disturbances quickly spread to other surrounding areas. On 12 January, a young postal worker, Daniel McColgan, was brutally murdered on his way to work in Rathcoole. The paramilitaries responsible for this killing subsequently issued death threats against other Catholic postal workers and teachers. While these threats have since been rescinded, the fact remains that the threats represented a direct and unacceptable assault on workers and on the wider community. The paramilitaries responsible for the murder of Mr. McColgan and for the death threats against his colleagues and other workers were rightly rejected by the people who turned out in large numbers at a number of anti-sectarianism rallies on 18 January. The trade [126] union movement is to be commended for organising these rallies.

  Against the background of a very limited number of arrests and prosecutions, the Taoiseach recently called for tougher action to be taken against those loyalist paramilitaries responsible for attacks in north Belfast and elsewhere. I have also raised this matter personally with Dr. Reid. I made it clear that the community needs and deserves the assurance of effective action against both the organisers and the perpetrators of the awful sectarian violence we have witnessed over the past year. As the Secretary of State has publicly indicated, “everything possible will be done to ensure convictions are procured”.

  I have asked my officials, who have been in sustained contact with political and community leaders in north Belfast, to continue to monitor the situation there closely. My officials have also raised the issue of loyalist paramilitary violence in the north Belfast area with the British authorities on an ongoing basis through the framework of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.