Cowards who prey on the elderly
There has been widespread condemnation after a spate of robberies in Belfast and Newry in which elderly pensioners were targeted.
Four senior citizens were attacked and robbed in their homes in three separate incidents during a two-day time period.
Two sisters in their 80s were left badly shaken after they were robbed by four men armed with screwdrivers in their Finaghy home at around 6.30pm on Wednesday.
The men confronted one of the sisters in her front hallway and grabbed her arm after forcing their way into the Diamond Gardens home.
They ransacked the house and stole a sum of money and the pensioner's dark blue VW Golf.
Later that evening an 84-year-old Newry man was beaten and robbed by another gang in his home.
Shortly after 9.30pm four men entered the Spelga Park Home in Hilltown through a bedroom window and confronted the pensioner in his kitchen.
The attackers then threw the man on a couch and assaulted him while the others ransacked the house. He was then put into a bedroom as the four men left the house.
And a 92-year-old woman was punched in the face after five men forced their way into her Marlborough Park North home on Tuesday night.
Two of them held the woman in her living room while the others searched her home. They hit her several times before making off with jewellery.
South Down MLA Caitriona Ruane and Newry Sinn Fein Councillor Mick Murphy condemned the assault and robbery of the 84-year-old pensioner.
"The gang responsible for this robbery have targeted someone who was completely defenceless and very vulnerable, and this cowardly and appalling act has left this tight knit rural community shocked and very angry," Ms Ruane said.
Cllr Murphy also expressed his outrage said that this latest robbery had left pensioners in south Down feeling very vulnerable in their own homes.
"The people responsible for carrying out this reprehensible crime have shown contempt for both their victim and the wider community.
"They need to be caught and brought to justice as they pose a significant threat and I would urge people, particularly anyone living in isolated rural communities, to be extra vigilant and take the necessary precautions to secure their homes."
Ulster Unionist Esmond Birnie said the attacks on two elderly pensioners in south Belfast left him deeply saddened. He called for higher conviction rates and tougher sentences to be introduced.
"News of an attack on a 92-year-old lady in her home in south Belfast is both depressing and sadly not entirely surprising. This was followed by a similar incident in which two elderly sisters living in Finaghy were attacked in their home.
"It reinforces the argument, notwithstanding Tuesday's welcome news of some criminal justice reforms, that we need to secure a much higher conviction rate for serious crimes.
"And then when criminals are convicted we need the strongest possible sentences. There is some evidence, disturbingly, that sentencing is more lax in Northern Ireland compared to England - this should not be so."