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27 July 2000 Edition

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Loyalist gang attacks elderly Catholic

An elderly Catholic man was viciously beaten in a sectarian attack in Ballynahinch last week.The 64 year old was attacked by a crowd of around 12 loyalists as he was making his way home after leaving a bar on Windmill Street on Friday night.

It was shortly after 11.45pm and the elderly man had only walked a short distance from the bar when he heard the crowd running at him. The man was struck on the back of his head with a bottle and knocked to the ground where he was repeatedly kicked about the head and body and left unconscious.

Earlier complaints to the RUC about the loyalist mob who had been singing sectarian songs, drinking and smashing bottles in Market Square were ignored and the RUC made no attempt to disperse the loyalists or move them away from a nationalist bar in the town.

The unconscious body of the elderly victim was discovered by another nationalist who ran back to the bar to raise the alarm. The RUC arrived at the scene but failed to administer first aid to the victim as he lay unconscious on the ground.

One RUC officer told a relative of the victim that eyewitness accounts had identified two suspects but over twenty four hours after the attack loyalist suspects linked to the scene had not been questioned.

Moreover, it was not until 3.30pm the following day before the victim was interviewed by the RUC. When asked by the family's solicitor why it had taken the RUC so long to obtain a statement, the RUC officer said he had ``other things to do.''

Local Sinn Fein spokesperson Francis Branniff described the attack as ``the latest in a catalogue of attacks on nationalists and their property in Ballynahinch. ``Loyalists in the town have a free hand,'' said Francis, ``last Friday's attack on an elderly nationalist so easily could have been another Robert Hamill.''

The attack took place against the backdrop in increased loyalist activity in the area. St Colman's highschool, a Catholic secondary school in Ballynahinch was the target of a malicious arson attack last week. The fire brigade was arrived at around 1.30am in the early hours of Friday morning to find the school minibus completely gutted by fire and the front doors of the school damaged.

The arson attack followed a petrol bomb attack on a local Catholic owned business. Three petrol bombs were thrown at the forecourt of McKibben's garage. Only two of the devices ignighted causing scorch damage to several cars and garage property.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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