Boys’ deaths mark turning point’ in N. Ireland dispute

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) — Three young brothers who had been asleep in their beds burned to death early Sunday in a sectarian attack marking what shaken Northern Ireland leaders termed a “turning point” in a violent stalemate over a blocked Protestant march.
A neighbor reported hearing 10-year-old Richard, 9-year-old Mark and 7-year-old Jason Quinn screaming while fire gutted their home in Ballymoney, about 40 miles northwest of Belfast.
Their Catholic mother escaped with her Protestant boyfriend, who was beaten back by flames when he returned to try to rescue the brothers, police said. There were reports the boys were being raised as Protestants.
Police said they broke up a demonstration outside the boys’ home shortly before the attack, and issued an urgent appeal to anyone who might be able to identify individual protesters.
A hollow-eyed Ronnie Flanagan, head of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, said he considered the boys’ deaths a “turning point” in the increasingly fractious standoff over the Orange Order’s stymied attempts in the past week to march down the predominantly Catholic Garvaghy Road in Portadown.
After their leaders met, the Orangemen whose parade was stopped a week ago said they would continue the standoff outside Portadown “indefinitely.”
Authorities counseled Catholics — who mostly had remained out of the fray since the July 5 stalemate began — not to retaliate for the boys’ deaths.
A Catholic funeral Mass for the boys was planned for Tuesday morning, said parish priest Peter Forde.