A 13-year-old boy has been hospitalised after being targeted in an apparent sectarian attack in Belfast.
The DUP’s North Belfast MLA, Brian Kingston, said the boy had been in a fast food restaurant at Brougham Street with two friends when the incident occurred.
He said a larger group of around ten boys came into the premises around 5.15pm, asking “aggressively” if they were Protestant or Catholic.
“When they refused to answer one of the larger group made a derogatory comment that they must be Protestants and one of the boys was then kicked on the arm and punched hard on the head, resulting in a swollen lump on his head,” he said
After speaking to the boy’s mother, Mr Kingston added: “This is a deplorable hate crime by a cowardly sectarian bunch who did not know their victims but were clearly looking for a smaller number of Protestant youths that they could attack.”
He said when the victim’s mother arrived, the group of attackers were seen in the grounds of Cityside Retail Park making their way out of the gate on North Queen Street and heading towards New Lodge.
“Such sectarian attacks must have consequences for the perpetrators and I urge anyone with information to pass that on to the police. With all the CCTV cameras in the vicinity of the KFC and Cityside Retail Park it must surely be possible to identify these youths so that they can be brought to justice,” Mr Kingston added.
“On the advice of the PSNI, the assaulted boy has been taken to hospital for an assessment of his head injury. I hope that his physical injuries will not be long-term but clearly such an experience will be traumatic for any person.
“Those who carried out this attack are condemned by their own actions. Whilst they may be seeking to escalate tensions in North Belfast, we would appeal for calm and for all efforts across the community to be put into bringing those responsible to justice.”