A 15-year-old Catholic boy was beaten unconscious with a golf club in a savage attack by a sectarian gang who then tied wire around his neck and dragged him along a street.
Surgeons are waiting to see if 15-year-old Niall Ferrin’s hearing and sight would return to normal following the attack at a north Belfast interface in which the his skull was fractured.
Residents also gathered at the scene at Cliftonpark Avenue yesterday evening in a show of support for Niall and his family.
A gang of five men -- be-lieved to be in their twenties and thirties -- set upon Niall, who is from the nationalist Oldpark Road area, as he talked to friends.
The teenager, who is just over 5ft tall, was last night being treated in a neurology ward in the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he underwent surgery following the assault.
His mother Patricia appealed for no retaliation and said members of the Protestant community had contacted her family offering support.
The mother-of-five said her son had been innocently talking with another boy and two young girls near a park at around 11pm on Friday.
“Niall’s friend saw men coming from an alley and shouted ‘run’,” she said.
“Niall turned around and saw a man with a golf driver and he was cracked over the head with it and he went right down onto the ground.
“Before he went unconscious he remembers looking up and they were still hitting him.”
Mrs Ferrin said her son -- a pupil at St Gabriel’s College in north Belfast -- suffered a fractured skull and had a hole in the side of his head.
“The neurosurgeon said it was pretty bad,” she said.
“They think wire was put around his neck and he was trailed up the street.
“His shoes came off and were lying down the street and he is grazed and cut. His head is swollen and he has cuts to his knees and legs.”
She said she and her husband Edward were “very, very angry” about the attack.
“I definitely think they were out to kill,” she said.
“This family is not sectarian. We don’t live in a sectarian area. We’ve never been the victim of sectarianism.
“I want no retaliation. I don’t want anyone to go through what we are going through.”