Irish Republican News · April 24, 2006
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Stab victim survives sectarian attack

A 20-year-old man has described how he was stabbed in the back in a vicious sectarian attack at a busy shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon.

Kirk McCaughern’s liver was torn and a lung punctured in the sudden and unprovoked attack.

Doctors told him the knife passed within an inch of his heart.

Mr McCaughern said he was singled out because he was Catholic. He overheard someone in a group of more than 20 people saying: “There’s the Fenians coming.”

There has been a significant increase in sectarian stabbing incidents in the past six months.

Mr McCaughern, from the Dunclug estate in Ballymena, was attacked at 3pm on Easter Saturday in the Tower shopping centre.

He had gone into town with his two brothers to get measured for suits for a family wedding in June.

He said up to 20 teenagers were standing in the centre and a fight broke out between him and one of the group.

“When I was walking into the crowd one of them said: ‘There’s the Fenians coming.’

“Next thing a crowd of older boys - in their twenties - arrived and in the middle of it I was stabbed although I didn’t realise.

“I felt funny when I was in the middle of the crowd and wanted to get away.

“I was walking away and saw the blood and asked ‘where’s the blood coming from?’ and my bro-ther said, ‘Kirk you’ve been stabbed’.”

The 20-year-old spent five days in hospital where he said he was told: if the knife had been an inch more in one direction it could have gone through his heart.

“I though that I was going to die. People kept telling me I would be alright and that it wasn’t that bad but there were times I thought it might be over. I could feel pain and when they put tubes into my chest. I did panic a bit.

“They could have killed me and I think they were trying to kill me. As soon as we walked in they shouted ‘there’s the fenians’. This is the second time I have been attacked like this in the past four years.

In recent weeks sectarian tensions in Ballymena have been rising. A number of loyalist and nationalists flags erected across the town in recent weeks have raised simmering tensions.

Last year the PSNI was forced to mount a major operation to protect Catholic churches and schools in the Ballymena district after several were fire bombed. A number of Catholic families were also forced to flee their homes in nearby Ahoghill after they were targeted in loyalist arson attacks.

Mr McCaughern’s mother Anne Marie says parents in the area are worried by the knife attack on her son.

“I would ask the question as to why it took the police 20 minutes to turn up to help my son in the middle of Ballymena in broad daylight? I would also ask has CCTV footage been seized from the shopping centre, the individual shops and the street? Can someone walk in there, stab someone else and it’s a case of see no evil, hear no evil?”

Police confirmed at the time that a sectarian motive for the stabbing was “one line of inquiry”.

Criticising the police response to the attack, Mr McCaughern said he would be making a complaint to the ombudsman.

* A Catholic family are moving out of the mainly Protestant Waterside area of Derry after a gun attack on their home earlier this week, the High Court heard last week.

Seven shots were fired at the house in an attack which was designed to drive Catholics from the estate, according to Justice Weatherup.

There have been a number of such sectarian attacks in the area in the past year and the family is currently making arrangements to sell their home.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News