Woman 'beaten by marchers' during Black parade
Police are investigating reports that a woman in her 50s was beaten by marchers as she tried to cross a road during a loyal order parade in Ballymena.
The alleged attack took place in Broughshane Street on Saturday afternoon during the Royal Black Institution march.
Mary McKeown (58) was crossing the road to get to a hairdressers when, it has been claimed, she was punched in the face and thrown to the ground by up to three men.
Local Sinn Fein councillor Monica Digney, who visited the Co Antrim woman in hospital, said she had been left terrified by the ordeal. She claimed Ms McKeown also sustained two dislocated fingers in the alleged assault.
“This woman is still badly shaken,” she explained. “All she did was wait for a gap in the parade so she could cross the road to get to her hairdressing appointment when this man grabbed her right arm. She said to him to leave her alone and went on over the road but she was grabbed again and this time the man ripped her coat.
“She was then hit on the right side of her cheek, which is now badly bruised.
“Then this marcher came over and started hurling sectarian abuse at her. She also had two fingers dislocated.”
The Sinn Fein councillor added: “The lady is actually feeling worse than she did on the day. She is a very slight woman, only 5ft 1in and she was accosted by these big, burly men.
“They actually had to send for a doctor on call to help her sleep because she keeps reliving it.
“She really is not great. She won’t see anyone but her immediate family at the moment, she is that traumatised.
“I think what happened is a disgrace, an absolute disgrace. Worst of all the incident has brought more shame on the borough of Ballymena.”
Ms McKeown’s son Don described the incident as “absolute thuggery”.
“She was punched in the face, she was hit on the back of the neck and her fingers are dislocated. This was just thuggery, absolute thuggery,” he told U105.8FM.
Ms Digney also said her party intended to contact the Parades Commission regarding protocol concerning emergency vehicles at parades.
She claims the ambulance which was transporting Ms McKeown to hospital was prevented from moving until after the parade.
They will also be asking for a meeting with the local PSNI commander to discuss the incident.
“God forbid if anyone was having a heart attack or if someone had been knocked down. On any other road if there was an emergency vehicle you have to stop, pull over and let it through.”
The police have confirmed that they are investigating a report that a woman was assaulted during Saturday's parade.
Thousands of people took part in the Royal Black Institution parades across Northern Ireland.
The last Saturday in August is traditionally the most important day in the Royal Black Institution's year.