Derry teens attacked by sectarian gang feared they would be thrown off Peace Bridge
Three boys thought they were going to be thrown from the Peace Bridge in Londonderry into the River Foyle during a vicious attack by a sectarian gang.
The victims, two aged 15 and the other 14, were making their way back home to the Waterside area of Derry when the gang of between 25 and 30 people identified them as Protestants.
The father of one of the boys said his son had been left petrified by the experience and did not want to go to the west bank of the city any more.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the man, whose son was one of the 15-year-old victims, said he was grateful his son was alive.
“This was a totally unprovoked attack on three young boys who were beaten badly just because they were Protestants,” he added.
“My son and the other two boys were over the town with other friends who are both Catholic and Protestant and were heading back over to the Waterside when this gang of hoods shouted sectarian names at them.
“We think they were identified because they play a lot of sport and take part in lots of cross-community activities. There was no other way of knowing what community they came from.
“This gang chased my son and his friends through the Peace Garden, and they had to run across four lanes of traffic trying to get away, but they caught up with them at the Peace Bridge.
“They were kicked, stamped on and thumped, and if it wasn’t for the intervention of members of the public, the three of them could have been beaten to a pulp.
“My son said the thought in his head when they were battering him was that they would pick him up and throw him off the Peace Bridge into the water.
“He has been badly traumatised — he is petrified to go over to the Derry side again, he doesn’t want to play any more football, he doesn’t even want to go out.
“My son was reared to treat everyone the same and not to see or care what someone’s religion is, but the same cannot be said of the gang who attacked him and his pals.
“They clearly have had hatred instilled into them by their parents. It’s the only way that a youngster that age could attack someone so viciously and think there was nothing wrong with it.
“When my son came home at around 10pm on Friday evening, I knew the minute I looked at him that he had been crying. Then I saw his face — it was swollen —and he told me what had happened to him and his friends.
“I jumped into my car and drove straight over the town. I could see for myself that there were gangs of young ones in their early teens marauding around the streets just looking for bother. It was too bad it was my son and his two pals they found.”
DUP councillor David Ramsey also pointed the finger of blame at parents of the attackers.
He said: “This kind of sectarian hatred boils down to how a child is brought up, nothing else.
“No school, youth organisation or sports club teaches hatred, so there is only one place these young people are learning their sectarian, hate-filled language, and that is in their own homes.
“Derry is held up as an example of good community relations, but one attack like this can leave the Protestant community fearful of going over to the west bank of our city.
“Over the past weekend, so many parents have told me they will not allow their children back across the bridge.
“Unfortunately, that is not what anyone wants to see, but it is hard to argue against it after such a dangerous, unprovoked and vicious attack on three young boys.”
Three boys aged 13 and 14 were arrested over the attack but have been released pending further police enquiries.
Anyone who witnessed the assault has been asked to contact police at Strand Road on the non-emergency number 101, or call the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak anonymously on 0800 555 111.