Killing illustrates challenges to Northern Ireland politics and peace

By Ecumenical News International
May 28, 2009

Politicians representing all the communities in Northern Ireland have condemned the killing of a Catholic man in what had come to be seen as a rare sectarian attack in a once conflict-afflicted area - writes Ray McMenamin.

Police said Kevin McDaid, a 49-year old Catholic, was beaten to death by a large gang of people in a sectarian attack near his home in Coleraine, County Derry on the evening of 24 May.

Disturbances broke out in Coleraine following the final day of soccer's Scottish Premier League season. Rangers, a Glasgow-based club which has had a mainly Protestant following, clinched the league title from fellow Glasgow club Celtic, which has had strong support from Catholics. Both Glasgow teams have a large following in Northern Ireland.

A gang of Protestants travelled to a Catholic housing estate shortly after Rangers were confirmed as Scottish Premier League champions and they attacked and killed McDaid, a father of four, as he went to look for his children, according to people in the area.

The deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness of the Sinn Féin party which has strong backing in the Catholic community, said the assault had been planned.

"Despite the enormous progress we have made over the recent past, sectarian hatred continues to blight many areas and [Protestant] loyalist paramilitaries continue to orchestrate sectarian violence," McGuinness told journalists.

Elsewhere the local member of parliament, Gregory Campbell of the mainly Protestant Democratic Unionist Party, condemned the slaying saying, "There has to be total condemnation of this killing as we would do for all other killings, no matter when or where they occurred or who the victims were."

The (Anglican) Church of Ireland's bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Ken Good, said the attack indicated a "deep problem" in Northern Irish society. "This kind of violent aggression, apparently motivated by sectarian hatred, surely highlights once more a deep problem in our society," Good stated.

The slain man's wife, Evelyn McDaid, who is a Protestant, told the Derry-based BBC Radio Foyle station she believes the killing was carried out by "loyalist" [Protestant] paramilitaries, although the police had not confirmed this. "They called themselves the UDA [one of the paramilitary groups]," she said on 26 May. When she tried to save her husband, she herself was badly beaten. "[They] booted me and punched me and hit me with a baseball bat across the head."

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

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