The Sinn Fein mayor of Derry City Council has condemned an onslaught of “sectarian attacks” on the last Protestant enclave in the west of city, which victims are describing as a renewed “Siege of Derry”.
And a unionist councillor says he was “shocked” by a suggestion from the PSNI that they should evacuate Protestant young people from the city during planned parties in the city tomorrow to celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher.
Mayor Kevin Campbell told the News Letter yesterday that dissident republicans were manipulating mobs of up to 50 children and having them throw dozens of petrol bombs at the minority Protestant community after the death of the former Prime Minister last week.
The Protestant enclave, the Fountain Estate, consists of 400 families surrounded by a two-to-three mile security barrier in the mainly Catholic west of the city.
Mr Campbell said the attacks on the estate were “absolutely disgraceful”. He added: “There must be a sinister element involved when 25 petrol bombs are thrown - children aged nine to 15 would not know how to make petrol bombs.”
He suggested dissident republicans were involved.
“Those responsible are trying to draw the police in. These are sectarian attacks – there is no other word for it. We had a rota going on for some years at the Fountain to chase young people away. The PSNI used CCTV to publish images of those responsible.”
DUP councillor Gary Middleton said Fountain residents are “panicking” about planned celebrations in the city for the funeral of Margaret Thatcher tomorrow.
“There is a lot of tension in the air,” he said.
“The term that is being used is ‘the Siege of Derry’ - the people of the Fountain feel that they are still under siege over 300 years after the original siege.”
He said police have asked the youth group in the Fountain to take all their young people out of the city tomorrow, offering to pay for them to go karting and paintballing in Co Down.
“When I heard that I was shocked,” he said. “That will not deal with the root of the problem.”
Resident William Jackson said petrol bombs have been coming within 2-3 feet of his house.
“After seven nights of mayhem we have seen only one arrest,” he said.
“We feel under siege 24 hours a day. Even before Margaret Thatcher’s death there was still intimidation and ongoing verbal abuse.
“They call us Orange Huns and say things like, ‘We are going to burn you out’.
“I get phone calls at 2-3am saying they are going to burn me out, shoot me in the head and watch my family cry.
“They are not going to be happy until we are out. It is ethnic cleansing, just sectarian thuggery.”
Foyle PSNI said they regularly fund away days for young people from both sides of the community during big events such as parades.
An offer has been to made for youths on both sides for an away day tomorrow to divert children away from trouble, a spokesman said.