Belfast Telegraph

Violence fears over Coleraine vigilantes patrolling estates

By Chris Kilpatrick

Vigilante gangs are patrolling housing areas on the north coast amid fears sectarian tensions could spill over into violence.

The jailing of nine loyalists in relation to an attack which led to the death of Catholic community worker Kevin McDaid in 2009 is said to have led to a further escalation of tensions in Coleraine.

A number of properties have been attacked in recent weeks, including the pouring of acid over a car belonging to a nurse in the Co Londonderry town.

There were also clashes following an Orange band parade through the town last month, with police increasing their presence in an effort to quell trouble.

In recent weeks vigilante gangs of young men are reported to have begun patrols in their respective areas at night.

PUP councillor Russell Watton warned: "The ongoing sectarian attacks in Coleraine are starting to escalate out of control.

"I warned the police earlier this month that action was needed. The consequence is that people are taking it upon themselves to police their communities."

The mayor of Coleraine, DUP councillor George Duddy, recently said there had been 20 attacks on property since April.

Police warned against anybody taking the law into their own hands.

"Those who engage in vigilante behaviour, whether claiming to represent an illegal paramilitary organisation or not, are usually only interested in asserting their own control over local communities," said Chief Inspector Nicky Thompson.

"Police would take this opportunity to warn anyone involved in such illegal behaviour they will be the subject of arrest and the judicial process."

Community worker Kevin McDaid (49) died after he was set upon outside his home in what a judge said was an alcohol-fuelled, sectarian incident. Police appealed for calm after trouble flared following the Orange parade, hours after nine men were jailed in relation to the attack.

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