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Unionists turn off interface phones

12 May, 2004

South Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey has expressed serious concerns that elements within unionist paramilitaries are attempting raise tensions in the McClure Street area in advance of the marching season. Mr Maskey's comments come after a group of 40 masked men drove into the area at 10pm last night and threatened local residents.

Mr Maskey said:

" Last night at 10pm a group of up to 40 masked men drove into McClure Street on the Lower Ormeau area and threatened local residents. The PSNI in riot gear were also present at the scene. I have a real fear that unionist paramilitaries within the Donegal Pass area are attempting to raise tensions in the area in advance of the marching season.

" In recent times much work has been going on behind the scenes to reduce tensions in this area and set up a network of communication to solve problems like this. However last night the phones on the unionist side of the interface were turned off and it proved impossible to set up contact until after midnight. This is the particularly worrying aspect of last night's incident.

" I would appeal to unionist political and community leaders in the Donegal Pass and elsewhere to ensure that they work with ourselves and other community leaders to reduce tensions in interface areas and ensure that we have a quiet summer." ENDS

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