Polcie in the Republic are investigating an attack on eight teenagers from Northern Ireland after a gang of youths attacked them while they were attending an Irish language course.
The group of boys, aged 15 and 16, from Co Armagh, were returning to their accommodation in Loughanure, Co Donegal, on Tuesday evening when a gang of up to 25 youths punched and kicked them to the ground in what appeared to be an unprovoked attack.
One of the victims required four stitches to his head after he was struck with a hurley, which had been taken from one of his group and used in the attack.
The others were all treated for bruising and for mild concussion by a nurse at the Irish college, and later by a local GP in Bunbeg.
Donal O'Neill, the principal of Colaiste Mhuire, Loughanure, where the students are one week into a three-week course, said last night that the attack had been unprovoked.
“They were just walking home for their tea and minding their own business when a group of between 20 and 25 youths attacked them.
“They were kicked and punched and dragged along the ground. It lasted a couple of minutes until a local man got out of his car and shouted. Then they all dispersed.”
Mr O'Neill added that while there had been some minor incidents in the past, nothing on this scale had occurred before. “When I was ringing their parents to inform them, I imagined how worse it could have been if any of them had suffered a serious head injury which could easily have been the outcome,” he said.
Mr O’Neill added that the students and their parents were happy that they remained in Co Donegal to complete the course but urged locals to help gardai track down the perpetrators.
A Garda investigation team spent most of yesterday in the village taking statements from the injured students.
Colaiste Mhuire, in the heart of the Donegal Gaeltacht, was forced to shut down for a week last year because of an outbreak of swine flu. But student numbers have been maintained with 270 students from Northern Ireland currently attending a three-week course.