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Society turning blind eye to mob rule, Belfast protest rally told

By Angela Rainey

Published 06/06/2016

The Children Of The Troubles protest rally, held at the front of Belfast City Hall, attracted only a small crowd
The Children Of The Troubles protest rally, held at the front of Belfast City Hall, attracted only a small crowd

Organisers of a protest against paramilitary shootings say they fear that society has turned a blind eye to "mob rule" after only 20 people turned up to the rally.

Just hours later a 19-year-old man in north Belfast - the third victim in a week - was cut in the neck by a gang of men wearing hooded tops and with their faces covered.

Police said the men, one of which had a gun, entered the man's property on Kinnaird Street just before midnight on Saturday.

The victim's emotional mother Donna Foster said she was now considering moving home.

"I thought my son was going to get killed or shot. I didn't know what to do," she told the BBC.

"I just heard all of the shouting, my son running into the kitchen and those two running in after him.

"They had him in the corner kicking the head off him and punching him and they lifted stuff out of the kitchen and started throwing it at him."

Children Of The Troubles, which formed a year ago, demonstrated outside Belfast City Hall on Saturday to raise awareness of paramilitary 'punishment' attacks.

One of the group's founder members, Bernie O'Rawe, said that, in terms of vigilantism, she feared that "Belfast is starting to slide the way Dublin has".

"We were very happy with the turnout," she said.

"It's not so much about the amount of people who turned up, but more so the raising of awareness of so-called punishment beatings and recognising that as a society we have to do something about it.

"Times have changed now from 30 years ago when people in west Belfast would have been reluctant to go into a police station for fear of being called a tout, but now people can; people have moved on.

"What is wrong is these people thinking it is OK to pump bullets into another human being?

"They sneak about and plot and scheme about who they can target next - usually unsuspecting working-class kids from broken homes under the label that they are anti-social and taking drugs, burgling houses and stealing handbags.

"All crime is wrong, but beating, shooting, exiling and assassinating people is a lot more anti-social - in fact it's the worst kind of anti-social behaviour.

"Society has turned a blind eye to it, but we all have a responsibility in making society a better place.

"We have a police force and a criminal justice system. If someone is behaving in a criminal way let the police and courts deal with it.

"There is no excuse for mob rule, vigilantism and capital punishment by these so called 'moral custodians'."

Earlier this week two men were targeted in separate attacks in north and west Belfast within the space of an hour.

In April Michael McGibbon, a 33-year-old taxi driver, was left to bleed to death after being shot in an alleyway in Ardoyne.

"These are wild west tactics," added Ms O'Rawe.

"They're bully boys, thugs with hoods, and too many of these attacks have happened in our society. There's too many people walking about with guns.

"They exclude, ostracise and stamp the victims and it's a stamp they'll walk about with for the rest of their lives while their families are expected to say nothing.

"People age out of crime, but the victims are never offered a chance to explain themselves, they're just attacked and left with physical and mental health problems that drains the health service - that's if they're not shot dead.

"What a petty place we live in that we think this is acceptable or justice. God help our society."

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