On 22nd August at 9:30pm a 10 man gang claiming to be from the “Highfield UDA” and armed with hammers and machetes broke into the home of Dee Sturgeon and (in front of his partner and 11 week old baby) attempted to murder him. His injuries were so bad he needed 14 stitches to wounds in his leg and partially severed finger and had to undergo emergency surgery to insert two steel plates into his broken arms. Mr Sturgeon when asked was under no doubt as to why this brutal attack had been carried out. He said “as the gang attacked me they shouted You will never be back here you dirty Fenian bastard”.
Two nights after the attack on Mr Sturgeon, Catholic and Protestant youths in an apparently pre-arranged event clashed on Newtownards Road at an interface between the two communities all this comes against a backdrop of increased polarisation across the religious divide. On 2nd September, 15 year old Shannon Thompson was viciously assaulted by a young man as she attempted to walk home along the Short Strand/Lower Newtownards Rd interface. Shannon’s family believe the culprits made off to the nearby Short Strand and the police are treating it as a sectarian hate crime.
The rise in sectarian attacks cannot be put down to the extremists in both communities, politicians have used the issue of sectarian tensions to deflect attention away from their role in implementing cuts and austerity which is hitting working class communities hard.
Working class communities are bearing the brunt of sectarian division. The attacks must be stopped by ordinary people from both sides jointly organising protests, meetings and street patrols to attempt to stop attacks from both sides and to call for decent jobs, homes, services and a future for all.