Belfast Telegraph

Lurgan's climate of fear: disgust at dissidents is being suppressed

By Anne Madden

The physical scars of the explosion in Lurgan, in which three young girls escaped death, had been mended yesterday. The corrugated iron fence had been repaired and the bin on the corner of Kilmaine Street replaced.

But the full impact of the attack runs much deeper. A mother-of-two walking past the scene yesterday said she was nervous about going into the area.

Passers-by edged with caution around the new bin and one resident said she’d have preferred the council not to have replaced it. Many Lurgan residents described their “disgust and anger” at those behind Saturday’s bomb. No one wanted to give their name — such is the climate of fear in the town.

Dissidents wreaked havoc on Saturday with a number of hoax bomb alerts, but there was no warning for the actual device that exploded on the corner of Kilmaine Street and North Street — the latest incident in a long line of dissident republican activity in the town.

But most people in Lurgan say they do not support the dissidents and insist they just want to live in peace.

Monsignor Aidan Hamill, from St Peter’s church, said: “I’m told they (dissident republicans) are small in number, but they are punching above their weight in terms of the social effects. It’s a very tiny minority that want to go back (to violence) but there is a lot of frustration and powerlessness to do anything about it.”

Many Kilmaine Street residents have lived there all their lives and vividly remember The Troubles, when it was the scene of several murders.

Residents said the bomb had jolted them back to the “bad old days” which they don’t want to see return.

“People are generally very quiet here,” said one mother-of-two. “They want their kids and grandkids to grow up in peace. My little girl is now very nervous.

“Someone left a sandbag in the street last night, and she kept saying ‘Mummy, there’s something outside’. It’s sad when small children are worried about bombs.”

Her neighbour, who has a view over the railway line where dissidents attempted to burn out the Belfast to Dublin train last month, said most people regard the dissidents as thugs.

“In the past there would have been a lot of support for the Provos in the town,” she said. “Today, if they weren’t doing this in the name of the CIRA (Continuity IRA), they would be doing it anyway.

“There is a very big fear factor because they would come and burn you out. I would call them thugs.”

She said many people living in the Kilwilkee estate, regarded as a hotbed of dissident republicanism, are “living in fear”.

“I would say there wouldn’t be more than 10% that support the dissidents,” she said.

But residents say there is a more sinister element to the recent violence in which |dissidents are manipulating young teenagers using drugs and alcohol.

Residents described how kids on bicycles using mobile phones were seen at flashpoints.

Monsignor Hamill agreed: “The people orchestrating the trouble are remote-controlling what goes on with their mobile phones,” he said.

“I am very concerned about the effects of drink and drugs in all of this.”

He painted a complicated |picture in which dissident |republicanism feeds off |dysfunctional families who feel marginalised.

“These young people are being used as fodder,” he said. “We need to get across that what they are getting involved in is simply evil. The vast majority of people don’t want any more violence.”

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