31 July 2008 Edition

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Terrifying mob attack on home of Safer Neighbourhood worker

ATTACK: Stephen Kelly, bloody and battered following the horrific attack at his home

ATTACK: Stephen Kelly, bloody and battered following the horrific attack at his home

ON Friday 25 July the Sinn Féin Mayor of Belfast Tom Hartley opened the “Kids Space” in the St James area of West Belfast. Local communty activists reclaimed what was an area of overgrown, derelict land near the Bog Meadows Nature Reserve, and transformed it into the ‘Kids Space’. The activists cleared the plot then got local children involved in planting flowers and bushes.
The idea was to get the children to take ownership of the plot and of the project as a way of teaching them to have a pride in their area and to respect the place where they live.
“The children are our future”, said Hartley as he cut the ribbon to the plot and commended the kids for their efforts.
One of those attending the opening ceremony was Martin Kelly. Unfortunately, Martin became the subject of much unwanted media attention during last week.
Martin is a member of Sinn Féin and works with the St James Safer Neighbourhood Project and as such has come in for some special treatment from the area’s thugs. The thugs, whose ringleader is a serial offender, have constantly abused Martin and his family. They frequently ring the Kelly house threatening, “to burn your house and burn your car”. They send taxis to the house at all hours of day and night as well as ordering unwanted pizzas.
On Sunday 20 July, a 40-strong mob attacked the Kelly home on St James Road in what was a terrifying ordeal for the Kelly family. Pauline Kelly, Martin’s wife, was at home with the couple’s 12-year-old son Kieran, when two of the local gangsters arrived at the house.
Said Martin, “They were shouting at Pauline and threatening to kill me and burn the house down”.
Pauline confronted the pair who left but the terrified woman phoned Martin and their 21 year old son Stephen. “The next thing Pauline knew”, said Martin, “was that the pair who abused Pauline arrived back with a gang of about 40 of the local hoods. “They laid siege to the house and were shouting abuse and behaving aggressively when 21-year-old Stephen arrived home”.
According to Martin, Stephen challenged the pair, who are well known for their violent and anti-social behaviour, in the area.
“Both of these men had leather belts at the ready and set about Stephen, beating him about the head and face with the buckles. Pauline was hit in the face with a three litre bottle of cider while the mob who were laying siege to the house tried to break the windows”.
The situation that Martin arrived into, when he got home after about 20 minutes, was one were the mob was baying for his son’s blood. The pair who were beating Stephen were, “circling him, smashing their belt buckles on his upper body”.
“They were like dogs. You could see the hatred on their faces, they must have been high on drugs”.
Added Martin, “I have no doubt this pair are capable of murder, especially when they are high on drink and drugs. When they drew blood the mob was chanting, ‘blood, blood, we’ve got blood’”.
Some of Martin’s neighbours came out to help defend his home as the crowd was trying to smash their way in. Indeed the father of one of the ringleaders even arrived in a van which he tried to manouvre to ram the house.
“My 75-year-old mother came to help and one of the thugs assaulted her”, said Martin.
He went on, “I’ve no doubt in my mind that we would be burying our Stephen if our neighbours had not come out.
Martin ended up phoning the PSNI as the situation became more critical. When the PSNI arrived they were confronted by the mob and a riot situation developed.
“These people were intent on doing real damage”, maintained Martin when speaking to An Phoblacht afterwards, “they could have killed my son and wrecked my home.
“In the last year in West Belfast  thugs have killed Harry Holland and Bap McGreevy. My fear on Sunday night was that a member of my family, or I, could have met the same fate.
“I am in no doubt that the thugs behind this attack singled me out because of my work in the Safer Neighbourhood Project (SNP). I do that work to keep the area safe from the anti-social gangs behind the attack on my home. This attack has made me more determined than ever to continue that work because there are more good people in the area and we owe to them to work on their behalf and not be intimidated”.
Meanwhile on Friday night 25 July up to 200 SNP activists from across Belfast took part in a march through the St James area in a show of solidarity with the Kelly family.
During the procession some of the thugs involved in the siege at the Kelly home shouted abuse at the marchers and threw eggs at them in an attempt to provoke trouble.
However the SNP activists continued with what was described as, “a dignified and peaceful demonstration”.
It has since emerged that Martin Kelly has had to take more time off work as his family have again been threatened after the march.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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