May 11, 2009 / 10:59 AM / 10 years ago

Sinn Fein politician's house petrol-bombed

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Supporters of suspected dissident nationalists petrol-bombed the home of a senior Sinn Fein politician in Northern Ireland in the early hours of Monday.

It is the third time the home of Mitchell McLaughlin, a member of Northern Ireland’s assembly, has been attacked in recent weeks.

Members of Sinn Fein, the political ally of the IRA, are viewed as traitors by pro-Ireland militants, who reject their decision to enter mainstream politics and the ending of the IRA’s military campaign.

The attack scorched the walls of McLaughlin’s home. He said in a statement after the attack: “To those groups ultimately responsible for this type of attack through their rhetoric and public threat, I call on them to come forward and explain how these type of actions will progress the cause of Irish freedom one iota.”

Earlier this month, police warned Martin McGuinness, a former senior IRA commander and now Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, that dissidents wanted to kill him.

McGuinness, one of Sinn Fein’s leading members, angered some hardline nationalists in March when he denounced militant groups who had killed two British soldiers and a policeman as “traitors” — a major insult in nationalist communities, where suspected informers were often executed by the IRA.

Police in Northern Ireland have said dissident nationalists who want to rid the province of British influence by force, number around 300.

Unlike the IRA, which had 1,500 members at its height in the mid-1970s, the militants do not have widespread grassroots support.

Dissidents do, however, enjoy some support in Londonderry, Northern Ireland’s second city, where both McLaughlin and McGuinness live.

Nationalists refer to the city as Derry but Londonderry is its official name.

Reporting by Carmel Crimmins; Editing by Steve Addison

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