Attacks continue despite peace efforts
Attacks continue despite peace efforts

A Catholic man is recovering from head injuries after he was attacked with baseball bats and a knife in a sectarian attack in Ballymena.

Paul O'Neill was attacked on the second anniversary of the fatal sectarian assault on 15-year-old Michael McIlveen in the County Antrim town.

Mr O'Neill was walking along Doury Road in the town around 10pm on Wednesday when men jumped out of three cars and began assaulting him.

He was beaten unconscious and was later taken to Antrim area hospital by two passers-by, one of whom was a taxi driver.

A spokeswoman for the hospital last night described his condition as "stable".

It is understood Mr O'Neill is a friend of the McIlveen family.

Sinn Féin assembly member Daithi McKay challenged claims by the PSNI police that no motive had been established for the attack.

"It is quite clear that sectarianism remains a major issue in Ballymena and this young man could have lost his life as a direct result of this," he said.

"There has been sterling work carried out by the civic community in Ballymena over recent years to combat sectarianism but there needs to be more political leadership on all sides.

"From 2005 to 2007 there were 275 sectarian attacks in Ballymena and 294 people were informed by the PSNI that their lives were under threat.

"Those involved in this activity are thugs and we must work toward a situation where these people, their sectarian attacks and their sectarian attitudes have no credibility or support within their community."


Meanehile, Ian Paisley in his last question-time as First Minister at the Belfast Assembly said he hoped that walls dividing communities could come down.

Mr Paisley welcomed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's argument during last week's US Investment Conference in Belfast that the North's so-called 'peacelines' must come down if the city wanted to maximise US investment.

However, the MP from Ballymena said any plan to dismantle the 'peacelines' must be driven by both communities.

Mr Paisley paid tribute to the work of community groups in north Belfast who laid the foundations for recent relatively peaceful summer marching seasons and confirmed the power-sharing executive's plan to create a special taskforce for interface areas.

It is now expected that Mr Paisley will formally stand down as first minister early next month, probably on June 5.

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