Savagery of bonfire thugs

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A Catholic man was dragged from his car and severely beaten in broad daylight in a rabid attack by loyalist thugs enraged by the failure of their bonfire nearby. It is believed the victim was attacked randomly and was only identified as Catholic by the football jersey he was wearing.

The man was a passenger in the vehicle in Portadown’s Bridge St when the suddenly gang smashed the front windscreen of the vehicle and dragged him out over the broken glass. Seven or eight men set about beating him unchecked in front of a queue of vehicles stopped at traffic lights. The attack took place in a predominately Protestant area of the north Armagh town last Sunday afternoon.

The victim spent several days receiving hospital treatment for extensive injuries. The driver of the car was also injured, while a woman and a two month old baby in the back seat both escaped injury.

It was notable that the hardline unionist DUP did not condemn the vicious assault, while the Ulster Unionist Party only described it as “unnecessary”.

UUP representative Doug Beattie said loyalists were “very angry” after the nearby Edenderry bonfire ignited a day ahead of schedule, and suggested local nationalists were involved.

“To take it out on this individual was totally unnecessary,” he said. “I am appealing for calm on all sides. People can’t take the law into their own hands.”

The vicious attack recalled for some the sectarian murder of Robert Hamill, who endured a fatal beating at the hands of a loyalist mob during the 1997 marching season as the PSNI watched from a distance.

Threats to nationalist residents had been posted on social media by a number of Portadown-based loyalists.

Sinn Fein representative John O’Dowd called on unionists “to show leadership” and said their response to the potentially fatal attack was “unsatisfactory”.

“What is needed now is leadership from unionist parties. There is absolutely no place for sectarianism in our society and it must unequivocally condemned by all,” he said.

“Genuine political leadership involves standing up to those who want to drag us back to the past and that is something that is sadly lacking within unionism.

“We all have a common interest in ensuring that we have a peaceful summer and that there is no trouble on our streets.”

Attacks on two republican monuments in the North Armagh area have also been linked to the simmering tensions in the area.

One memorial in the Craigavon area which commemorates the lives of Gervaise McKerr, Eugene Toman and Sean Burns who were murdered in political assassinations in November 1982, had paint thrown over it.

The Edward Costello memorial garden which was opened two years ago by Republican Sinn Fein was also paint-bombed. RSF said that its members were taunted by the PSNI as they sought to rectify the damage.

“These attacks are designed to try and raise tensions ahead of this year’s 12th of July which sees hundreds of sectarian orange marches taking place,” they said.

“These attacks will not be tolerated against our communities in any shape or form.”

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