Sectarian murder in Coleraine


The brutal sectarian murder of voluntary community worker Kevin McDaid in Coleraine has again exposed the ugly face of sectarianism in Northern Ireland and the fallacy of the so-called peace settlement.
On Sunday 24th May, father-of-four, Kevin McDaid, 49, was murdered by a loyalist gang wielding hatchets and baseball bats in front of his wife and son. His wife, a protestant and a pregnant neighbour were also assaulted, while another victim, Damien Fleming remains in a critical condition after coming to his aid, during the assault in the mixed Heights estate in the town.

The victims claimed that during the attack the loyalist thugs shouted UDA (Ulster Defence Association). At least eight people have been charged in connection with the murder including a former member of the now defunct, UDA-linked Ulster Democratic Party. Kevin McDaid’s son, Ryan has also been warned by the police that his life is under threat. Officially, the Ulster Political Research Group which is the political wing of the UDA, have denied UDA involvement. How many times have we heard this from paramilitary organisations?

In recent years, the public face of the UDA have been keen to present a media friendly image to shore up funding of their various community programmes and get a slice of the sectarian carve up in the North. They remain a ruthless sectarian militia riddled by competing factions and criminality. Given the autonomous internal structure of the UDA based on ‘brigades’ it remains unclear the influence of the ‘central leadership’.

It is believed local PSNI were in contact with residents in the Heights estate after tri-colours were erected in the Somerset Drive area, and loyalists in the hours leading up to the attack. To allegedly prevent any disturbances, after loyalists were seen gathering in the city centre following the Celtic and Rangers football match

The family have launched a formal complaint to the police ombudsman following allegations that police where in negotiation with loyalists up to an hour before the assault. Local residents have also criticised the lack of police response and protection.

One resident spoke to the Belfast Telegraph, but declined to be named said: “They sent only one police car. Then after Kevin McDaid was dead there were four police Land Rovers with riot squad – so they knew this was going to happen.”(1)

The Sunday World newspaper claimed that a senior UDA man told them that a police officer sent a text to one of the loyalists saying: “The Tricolours are still up in the town — are yis real men or what?” This apparent failure of the police to intervene and their facilitation of his murder has resulted in nationalists comparing the murder to the that of Robert Hamill in 1997 who was kicked to death by a loyalist mob in Portadown in full view of a RUC landrover 200 yards away from a RUC police barracks.

The media have been keen to blame the preceding football match between Celtic and Rangers for the trouble. Undoubtedly, these matches do raise tensions, particularly at sectarian interfaces but since when has sectarian gangs from any quarter needed an excuse to attack people from the opposite religion or anyone else in their way? Sadly, In this case it was ‘any fenian (lover) will do’.

Following the murder, condemnation and reaction from politicians was relatively muted in comparison to the recent killing of two British soldiers and a PSNI officer, where there was a massive public outcry. Unionist politicians have been disgracefully noticeable by their absence at the funeral of Kevin McDaid citing assembly or constituent business.

Anti-sectarian rallies have been organised thus far in Derry and Belfast and in communities across the North. To date there has been no such rally in Coleraine. On Tuesday June 2nd, community workers organised a rally outside Belfast City Hall which was sponsored by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Even though it was organised at short notice, the attendance was small and disappointing, compared to the hundreds of others enjoying the sunshine on the lawn of the City Hall. Speakers included Patricia McKeown, as well as Catholic and Protestant clergymen. WSM and Organise! members were in attendance along with 300 community workers, trade unionists and others.

While symbolic events such as this are essential and a positive step forward, reciting pie-in-the-sky moralistic prayers and appealing to our politicians will never wash away the evils of sectarianism.

The various shades of nationalism and unionism only offers us further division, suspicion and fear which serves the interests of the bosses. If we are serious about ending sectarian divisions, we must begin with ending church control over our schools and working towards smashing the “peace walls” which remain a permanent barrier between communities. Workplace and community based struggles and other grassroots networks across the divide represent small steps towards building confidence and solidarity between the ordinary working people of Northern Ireland.

Finally, the struggle against sectarianism cannot be divorced from the struggle against the state and capital. How can we truly eradicate sectarianism while we have the institutionalised sectarian carve-up at Stormont between sectarian parties who merely ‘manage’ sectarianism and squabble over the crumbs from Westminster?

1& 2

For reference

Coleraine is predominately a unionist town and located in County Derry. It has experienced its fair share of sectarian trouble and the gradual decline of the once thriving manufacturing industry in the area