Posters seeking justice for schoolboy Noah Donohoe have been attacked in a predominately unionist area of north Belfast.
The teenager’s face was chopped out of posters which had been erected alongside Assembly election posters.
A number of the “Justice for Noah Donohoe” posters were damaged near Grove Park along the Shore Road in Belfast, near where Noah went missing in 2020.
The posters show an image of the late Belfast teenager, along with the words: “Vote justice for Noah Donohoe” and “A new and proper investigation”. In both cases, it was Noah’s face which the unknown attackers symbolically sought to destroy.
It is the latest twist in an election campaign which has frequently played out in the sectarian theft and destruction of posters.
The 14-year-old Catholic student was found dead and naked in a storm drain in the north of the city in June 2020, six days after he disappeared.
He was last seen cycling near the Shore Road, an area of the city where loyalist attacks and intimidation of Catholic children had been taking place.
The PSNI had initially sought to explain the disappearance and death by suggesting Noah suffered a change of personality after falling from his bike, before a public outcry forced a retreat.
Since then, the Donohoes have been battling a secretive, ineffective police investigation, as well as the disregard and occasional hostility of the Six County political establishment.
The family is currently seeking to overturn public interest immunity (PII) certification which subjects four police files to secrecy measures, and are also fighting to have Noah’s inquest heard by a jury.
Taking to Twitter on Sunday, his mother Fiona said: “My baby does not deserve this. Beautiful Noah was one of the most giving and loving souls. To get a ladder and then cut his face out. Is abhorrent..I have never used these kind of words in my life...Words like ‘horrific’. Noah went missing. These words are normal now.”
The incident has cast a shadow over the last week of election campaigning, and the condemnations of politicians have not impressed supporters of the justice campaign, over 300,000 of whom have signed petitions calling for action.
The chief target of these is the controversial figure of Alliance Party leader Naomi Long, the Minister for Justice in the Six County Executive, whose callous and high-handed dismissal of the Donohoe family’s concerns have come back to haunt her. She impatiently wrote: “What do you want us to address? A child died. A family are grieving. We are all broken hearted for them. What is it you want?”
Fiona Donohoe has now confirmed in a tweet that there is an investigation into the attack on the posters and added that the residents of Shore Road have been “amazing with their support.”
She also she revealed that some 100 pages of PSNI files are being redacted by the PII certificates, one sixth of the 600 that still being withheld from the family.
She welcomed recent political support for the involvement of a jury in the inquest but said it “should be a given”, and that more action was needed.
“What about challenging the more worrying aspect of Noah’s case,” she asked, in reference to the PII secrecy. “A jury is easy to have when they don’t get to hear the main information”.