A PROTESTANT man whose car was damaged in a sectarian arson attack in Rasharkin on the morning of July 13 says he is “living in fear” in his own home and now wants to flee the village.
The 52-year-old, who lives alone apart from having his young son visit every other weekend, says he feels like a “prisoner” in his own home.
The man, who does not wish to be named, said it was the second attack on him in seven months and that he was attacked by a gang in the centre of Rasharkin at Christmas when he was assaulted with a wheel brace.
His elderly mother was ill and lived with him before she passed away in March and he believes that stopped his house being attacked during the period from Christmas.
But since she passed away and he has been living alone in the house he believed it was only a matter of time before the property came under attack.
Because of the fear of attack he has been sleeping downstairs on the sofa every night since Christmas.
The man said: “I have lived in Rasharkin all my life but now I just want to get out because I don’t feel safe in my own home and can’t even sleep in my own bed at night. I have no peace and it is just too dangerous and I want out.
“The police had been patrolling in Rasharkin on the Twelfth Night but the people who set my car on fire watched them leave the village at 3.30am and twenty minutes later my car was set alight.
“I heard the dog barking and was able to get a hose and put the fire out myself but if it had of gone up completely the house could have been damaged. The car is a write-off.
“I now feel like a prisoner in my own home. I don’t even go up the street any more and even if I want to go to the Post Office I don’t do so in Rasharkin but go to Kilrea.
“I am not in anything, not in the Orange Order or not in a band or anything and I am being targeted just because I am a Protestant. Seven Protestant families have moved out of Rasharkin in recent years.
“After the incident on the morning of the 13th my brother went into Rasharkin later that day to get a loaf of bread and he was taunted about the attack on my car and he was told there would be more attacks and it would not just be a car which would be burned the next time.
“There are good Catholic neighbours though and a number came to see me after what happened and I appreciate that,” said the man.
North Antrim Traditonal Unionist Voice MLA Jim Allister said: “The burning of a Protestant man’s car in Rasharkin coming hard on the heels of yet another attack upon the village’s Orange Hall is appalling.
“A campaign of blatant sectarian harassment against the minority community within the village has been going on for a number of years but of late incidents appear to have increased in both frequency and intensity.
“There is an orchestrated campaign to ethnically cleanse Rasharkin and it is long past the stage where the police need to get on top of the situation. People need to be brought to justice for this and a litany of other attacks on the Protestant population of the village.”
DUP councillor John Finlay said: “Once again I wish to condemn in the strongest possible terms a blatant sectarian attack on a Protestant resident living in Rasharkin. At 4am on 13 July he was woken by the barking of his dog to find his car had been set on fire.
“Only by the quick action of himself in managing to get the fire out, if the fire had continued and the car exploded the house could have been seriously damaged and he himself seriously injured. This is nothing more than a blatant sectarian attack to drive a Protestant resident out of Rasharkin.
“Over the last number of years the Protestant community in Rasharkin has been dwindling as a result of this Republican intimidation. This kind of intimidation needs to stop immediately. I’m thankful that the PSNI already has arrested two people in connection with this attack.”
A police spokesman said they are treating the arson attack as sectarian and that two local people were arrested on July 13 and released on police bail to return to a police station at a later date pending further enquiries.
Anyone with information can contact police on 08456008000 or phone the Crimestoppers number on 0800555111.