A west Belfast man badly beaten by a gang of loyalists on Black Mountain earlier this week says he is lucky to be alive.
James McCoubrey was one of five men who were protecting a 120ft by 60ft tricolour erected on the mountain side to coincide with Elizabeth Windsor’s arrival in the north on Tuesday. The massive flag was visible from most of Belfast.
A message in large writing above it read “Eriu is our queen”. Eriu was the goddess queen of Ireland in Celtic mythology.
Mr McCoubrey said the 100-strong gang shouted “kill the Fenian b*****d” as he ran for his life. He was taking a nap in a nearby tent when the gang struck at around 5pm on Tuesday. He said he thought he was going to die. His friends who were standing outside the tent managed to run to safety.
The former republican prisoner suffered three fractured ribs, a broken nose and extensive bruising over his body during the incident.
“I am lucky to be alive,” he said. “I was in the tent and I heard cheering and thought it was my mates carrying out a prank.
“Then a man shouted ‘we’ve got a Fenian b**** *d here, we have one’.
“Then a man hit me with a hatchet or a hammer. I fell back into the tent.
I then climbed under the side of the tent to get out and they started to beat me and were shouting things like ‘don’t let him get away’ and some were shouting ‘kill him’.
“If you have ever seen the film Zulu, that’s what it was like as I was surrounded. All I could hear was ‘kill the Fenian b’*****d, kill him here’ and ‘throw him off the mountain’.
Mr McCoubrey said after being beaten to the ground, he managed to roll down the mountainside to safety.
“It was the rolling that saved my life,” he said. “I rolled down the hillside and it was too steep for them to follow me.”
Mr McCoubrey was later treated at the Royal Victoria Hospital for his injuries.
He said the protest was organised by people living in the Springhill area of Ballymurphy.
“It was a peaceful protest organised by republican ex-prisoners and people living in the area,” he said.
“There were no political groups involved. I don’t agree with the queen’s visit and that is what it was about.
“There was no intention to offend and there was nothing provocative.”
West Belfast Sinn Fein assembly member Pat Sheehan condemned the attack.
“I am horrified and disgusted by this unprovoked attack that could have ended a lot worse than it did. It was a peaceful, dignified protest unconnected to dissident organisations and should have been allowed to continue,” he said.
Protesters bravely returned to their camp on Black Mountain on Wednesday despite the vicious loyalist attack.
The protesters had vowed to remain at the west Belfast site until the queen left the North. Their numbers had swelled to around 50 people who vowed the flag, 120ft by 60ft, would remain on the hillside until the end of the historic royal visit.
Among the protesters were Eirigi member Padraig Mac Coitir and veteran republican Tony Catney. Several representatives of the Ballymurphy Massacre families also joined the protest.
Mr Catney said the protest had been a “peaceful and highly effective” way of highlighting opposition to the two-day visit by the British monarch.
Crowds of republicans also gathered in separate protests at City Hall and on the Falls Road during the royal visit.