Belfast Telegraph

Dissidents 'blooding' teens for even worse violent acts

By Leona O'Neill

A youth worker in Londonderry has said that violent dissident republican gangs are instructing young members to carry out punishment beatings in the city as a means of 'blooding' them in preparation for bigger tasks.

Jim McKeever, a youth worker in Eglinton, was speaking after another teenager was injured after being beaten with iron bars by an armed gang in Creggan in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The victim (19) was set upon as he walked home through Glenowen and Forrest Parks at 4am and suffered cuts and bruises to his face and body.

Two weeks ago a vulnerable 15-year-old boy was also savagely attacked by a hooded iron-bar wielding gang in the Gartan Square area of the Bogside. The victim sustained a number of broken bones in the paramilitary-style attack.

Both attacks came after the PSNI revealed that the number of paramilitary-style shootings and beatings across Northern Ireland has increased significantly.

There were 68 paramilitary-style assaults between June 2016 and May 2017 as well as 26 paramilitary-style shootings. In the same period the year before, the figures were 57 and 18 respectively.

Mr McKeever, an SDLP councillor on Derry City and Strabane District Council, yesterday joined a group of people at Derry's Peace Garden yesterday to protest against so called 'punishment attacks'.

He said that a worrying development is that those who are attacking young people in such a brutal way are often teenagers themselves.

"They are trying to use this type of violence as blooding - an initiating smear of the face of a novice with the blood of the hunted - for their younger members before getting them into bigger things, which is a really worrying aspect," Mr McKeever said.

"The whisper on the ground, from the young people themselves is that the attacks are being carried out by other young people.

"That is the worrying thing.

"It can be a blooding experience for these young people, then they are caught into it and they are asked to do something on a bigger scale and they have no way out."

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