POLICE are treating an arson attack targeting a member of all-Ireland republican party Aontú as a sectarian hate crime.
Sharon Loughran, a paediatric nurse who stood for the party in May’s local elections, says she could have been killed in the attack in Damolly Village, Newry, Co. Down.
Ms Loughran’s car was destroyed and her house damaged in the attack, which occurred at around 3am on Wednesday, July 12.
Party leader Peader Tóibín blasted those responsible, saying: “Intimidation will not work.”
Ms Loughran said she was ‘still trying to process what happened’ after being woken by the smell of smoke and sound of her car burning on her driveway.
“This was a horrendous action that very easily could have set my house on fire also,” she said.
“The arsonist that set this fire could have killed me. That this would happen to anyone in 2023 is incredible.
“I cannot for the life of me understand why they are targeting me. I had no involvement in politics before joining Aontú.
“I am a paediatric nurse in Daisy Hill Hospital. I love my job and I am delighted to work for both communities.
“The only reason I got involved in politics was to stop the closure of key services in Daisy Hill Hospital and Aontú are very active on hospital campaigns around the country.”
Revealing her house had also been daubed with sectarian graffiti during May’s Newry, Mourne and Down District Council elections, Ms Loughran urged community representatives to take action.
“I am calling on the PSNI to provide the necessary protection so that people like me can go about our lives without living in fear,” she said.
“I am also calling on community leaders in Newry to bring about what influence to stop this shocking violence on the 12th of July.
“I want to continue to work for my community. I have a human right to do so in peace.”
Aontú leader Mr Tóibín condemned Wednesday’s attack, which he said could have had a much more grave outcome.
“This inferno could have killed her as her house is seriously damaged too,” he tweeted.
“Sharon is a paediatric nurse in Daisy Hill who works for both communities.
“Intimidation will not work.”
Police have released a description of a suspect as they revealed they were treating the matter as a sectarian hate crime.
“The suspect is described as approximately 5′ 10″, of slim build, was wearing a light-coloured top and light-coloured bottoms,” said Inspector Browne of the PSNI.
“The exterior of the house also sustained extensive smoke damage.
“We are treating this as a sectarian hate crime.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact 101, quoting reference 305 of July 12, 2023.