A lucky escape
BY LAURA FRIEL
The fact that a young West Belfast man beaten by a loyalist gang describes himself as `lucky' says a lot about the level of sectarian violence routinely endured by northern nationalists.
In the early hours of Sunday, 4 June, he was walking along Blacks Road in the loyalist enclave of Suffolk towards the Stewartstown Road. The West Belfast man noticed a two groups of about 20 men in all. ``Someone came up from behind me. He shouted `you fenian bastard' and struck me across the right side of my face.'' As the victim staggered from the blow, the assailant repeatedly hit him about the head. ``I fell to the ground where I was kicked in the ribs.''
Loyalist gangs routinely gather along the Blacks Road particularly at the weekend. It's a short distance from the Balmoral Hotel, a Catholic-owned business on the outskirts of the loyalist Suffolk estate, to the Catholic housing estate of Lenadoon.
It is a notorious spot for sectarian attacks. Most Catholics enjoying an evening out at the Balmoral avoid the 400-yard walk and take a taxi into nationalist West Belfast rather than risk sectarian attack along Blacks Road. ``I was lucky,'' he says, ``I was conscious and able to get back up on my feet.'' Before the gang could gather around him, he fled. ``Woodbourne RUC barracks stands at the top of Blacks Road,'' he says, ``yet despite the amount of surveillance in the immediate area, loyalists appear to think they can attack Catholics with impunity.''