A Celtic fan remains seriously ill in hospital after his throat was slashed during a mob loyalist attack on a pub in west central Belfast.
The supporter was set upon by a horde of up to 70 unionist supporters of Linfield football club returning from a local soccer match with rivals Cliftonville.
Eyewitnesses in Castle Street - a small nationalist area in the west of the city centre - said that at around 3.30pm the Linfield supporters alighted from a bus and rushed towards the area.
At first the mob tried to get into the Belfast Bar at the junction of Castle Street and King Street, but were repelled by up to 100 customers who had been watching the Celtic-Rangers match on television.
‘It was after the Linfield crowd were beaten back from the bar that they singled out a guy in King Street,’ said one witness. ‘They knew he was Catholic because of his Celtic shirt.’
It’s understood the 32-year-old, originally from Scotland, had his throat slashed in the vicious onslaught.
Pub staff said they had contacted the PSNI to warn of trouble before the attack took place after identifying a group they feared may have been scoping out the area.
“They were overheard talking about nabbing Cliftonville supporters and giving them a hard time,” said one staff member.
The group of around thirty Linfield supporters then photographed themselves holding up a huge Union Jack flag which had ‘No Surrender’ written on it.
“A number of questions need to be answered by the police in terms of operations and their response,” said local Sinn Féin representative Fra McCann.
“It appears at this stage, that had action been taken sooner this awful demonstration of hate and pure sectarianism might not have taken place.
“These guys were determined to inflict a lot of damage, they broke noses with their fists yelling ‘Fenian Bastards’ at them.”
The men involved in the attack shouted sectarian abuse and right wing slogans, and are believed to be connected with the neo-Nazi group Comabt 18.
Some were shouting “Section F” or “famous Section F” and were armed with knuckle dusters and other weapons.
* A senior PSNI police chief has rejected claims of an organised campaign targeting halls belonging to the Orange Order, stating that only around half of attacks last year may have been sectarian.
At one point last year, Grand Master Robert Saulters of the Protestant marching order claimed there was a “well organised and orchestrated campaign” against its premises.
In an email to Sinn Féin’s Daithi McKay, Chief Inspector Philip Knox wrote “there is no evidence of a concerted and coordinated campaign of targeting Orange halls across Northern Ireland.”
Mr McKay has now questioned who was responsible for the large number of alleged attacks.