Belfast Telegraph

Mother of racist assault victim thanks Tele readers for support

By Lindsay Fergus

The special needs pupil who was the victim of a sickening anti-Semitic attack has been inundated with messages of support.

It comes after the Belfast Telegraph exclusively revealed that Matthew Lough, (14), who has Asperger’s syndrome, was kicked in the head in a vicious assault at Carrickfergus College.

This paper has received emails and calls of support for Matthew and his family from members of the public who have been appalled by the revelation.

Matthew’s mother, Sharon, said: “We have been surprised by the response and we are very grateful for all the support people have given.

“By speaking out I hope it encourages people to be more tolerant of each other as we can learn so much from other cultures.”

The chairman of Stormont’s All Party Group for Ethnic Minority Communities, David McIlveen, said he had been “deeply disturbed” by the news.

“Such attitudes and racist abuse has no place in this society and most certainly not in our school corridors,” he said.

“I'm glad the police are investigating this intolerance and bullying. I trust those responsible will be made amenable for their despicable behaviour.”

The DUP MLA added: “Northern Ireland has an established Jewish community who make a significant contribution to life in this country.”

South Antrim MLA Paul Girvan has also rallied to support the family.

He believes that any pupils found to be involved in race-hate bullying in schools should be expelled to send out a clear warning that such behaviour will not be tol

erated in our education system.

“It sends out the wrong message if anyone who perpetrates such an act of violence is not reprimanded in a firm manner,” said Mr Girvan.

“I am totally supportive of the family. There is no place in our society for this type of behaviour.”

Matthew became the victim of bullying after revealing his family’s Jewish ancestry in a school project on the Holocaust.

Swastikas were put in his books and was taunted with names like “Jew boy” and songs about the gas chambers. But on March 14 the bullying stepped up a gear when Matthew was assaulted in the school corridor. The school has confirmed the attacker was suspended.

The family has also called in the police whose inquiries are continuing. Coincidentally Justice Minister David Ford took part in a video conference with schoolchildren across Northern Ireland to discuss hate crime the day after we broke the story.

Have you been a victim of racism in school? If so contact lfergus@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Story so far

Jewish communal life in Northern Ireland began in 1864, according to Dr Leon Litvack from Queen’s University. The first synagogue opened in Belfast’s Great Victoria Street in 1871 to service a community of German-born business people. The Jewish community, made up of just 100 families today, moved to its current place of worship, on Somerton Road, in 1964.

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