A sectarian attack on a 12-year-old schoolboy in a County Antrim village is linked to continuing loyalist death threats against a Catholic family in the area.
The boy and his 13-year-old friend were walking through Stoneyford shortly before 6.30pm on Thursday when three men attacked them.
While one of the boys managed to run off, the other was attacked and threatened.
It has since emerged that the attackers’ intended victim was the 13-year-old son of a Catholic family who earlier this month were warned that they were to be shot by loyalists.
Thursday night’s incident is the latest in a series of sectarian attacks on the Catholic family, which has already forced them to leave one house in the village.
However the Catholic family, who were too afraid to be identified, have now demanded an urgent meeting with PSNI chief Hugh Orde over reports that the unionist paramilitary orchestrating the attacks is being protected from prosecution.
“Before Thursday night it was threats and attacks on our homes but now they are trying to abduct my son and his friends,” the 13-year-old’s father said.
“We have made countless complaints to the police and have installed all sorts of security around our home.
“This thug has already been charged with threatening my family but I was convinced to drop the charges against him to try and improve community relations in the village.
“The ordinary police on the ground want this guy locked up as much as we do.
“He’s already managed to intimidate countless Catholic families from this village.
“He gets arrested but always seems to get released without charge.”
Calling for increased security for Catholic families in Stoneyford, Sinn Féin assembly member Paul Butler said he has given the new Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson a detailed account of the unionist campaign of intimidation against the Catholic people of Stonyeford stretching back fifteen years.
He highlighted the point that not no-one has ever been arrested for this campaign of sectarian intimidation.
ORANGE HALLS AND GAA CLUBS
Meanwhile, a pipe bomb may have been left at the gates of a County Down Gaelic football club in retaliation for an attack on a nearby Orange Hall last week, according to a councillor.
The device, described by police as viable, was found at the entrance of Ballela Gaelic club close to Banbridge at around 9pm on Wednesday following a telephone warning.
It is the first time that the small rural club, which opened a new hurling and camogie pitch earlier this year, has been targeted.
It follows a weekend spate of attacks against Halls used by the Protestant Orange Order.
The attacks on GAA clubs and Orange Halls may be an orchestrated attempt to destabilise the political process, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said this week.
The Sinn Féin party president Gerry Adams also condemned the attacks on the Orange Halls. The comments from the Sinn Féin leadership were welcomed by the DUP.
Mr McGuinness said the incidents were “despicable and disgraceful” and those responsible should be thoroughly ashamed. He said the perpetrators were intent on undermining the progress in the political process.
The Deputy First minister said those who targeted GAA clubs were also intent on destabilising the North.
“It appears to me we’ve two groups of people feeding off one another who are attempting to damage the ongoing successful process we are involved in here,” he said.
“So I think the sooner these people stop the better and I would wish every success to the PSNI and anyone else with a responsibility for bringing to justice people who are involved in these attacks on the community.”