A savage sectarian attack in County Down has left a man fighting for his life.
His family believe he was targeted because he is from a well-known Catholic family in the town of Kilkeel.
The attack came as the anti-Catholic marching season reached its height last weekend. It was one of a number following the ‘Twelfth’, the biggest day of the anti-Catholic marching season.
Elsewhere, a 12-year-old boy was among those targeted in a late night attack on a flat in Carrickfergus in which windows were broken and paint daubed on the walls. Homes were also attacked with missiles and fireworks at interfaces in Belfast.
But father-of-two Paschal Morgan suffered life-changing injuries and could have become the first sectarian murder victim in several years after a deadly attack in Kilkeel. He suffered deep bruising to his brain, shattered eye sockets and cheekbones, extensive cuts to his head and a suspected broken jaw.
His distraught wife Rachel (pictured, inset) said her husband, a building contractor, went for a drink with friends in the Kilmorey Arms Hotel in the town, close to his home, on Sunday evening.
A man later followed him into the toilets and asked his name. “He said Paschal Morgan and the man said was he related to Morgan with the newspaper shop,” she said. “He said yes.”
She said after being subjected to sectarian abuse, her husband called after he left the pub. He rang his daughter to ask her to pick him up before beginning to walk home up the Greencastle Road. When they got there, they saw a man who started running and then drove off.
“That’s when they saw Paschal lying on the road,” she said. “It’s a miracle she arrived.”
Her husband was unconscious and was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and only began responding to doctors the following day. He is currently undergoing extensive surgery and remains in a serious condition.
“It’s been horrendous,” Mrs Morgan said. “We’re friends with a lot of Protestants and they can’t believe anyone would do this.”
Sinn Féin councillor, Seán Doran, who is related to Mr Morgan by marriage, said he was “totally disgusted”.
“I thought Kilkeel had moved on from these sort of incidents. He is a hard-working fella and I just hope he recovers.”
Local Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has called on the PSNI to ensure those responsible are brought to justice. He said the Morgan family is well-known and well-liked in the area.
“This was a savage attack and those responsible need to be taken off the streets. I have been in contact with the PSNI and urged them to ensure that is the case,” he said.
“I would also urge political leaders to do more to face down the scourge of sectarianism in our society. It is when leaders fail to confront and condemn sectarianism, that attacks like this occur.”