Children forced to run gauntlet as loyalist mob attack club

Waterside Youth Club in Derry where a gang of masked youths attacked Catholic members on Tuesday night. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

A 17-YEAR-OLD girl was arrested on Wednesday night after a loyalist mob targeted Catholic teenagers leaving a youth club in Derry.

One mother described how her family was forced to lie on the floor of her car as she fled through the city's Waterside area.

Up to thirty loyalists with their faces covered with scarves – aged from mid-teens to their 20s – threw bottles and bricks at the youth club forcing staff to barricade themselves and the children inside.

Police confirmed they were treating the incident on Tuesday night at the Education Authority-owned club at Dungiven Road as sectarian.

The 17-year-old was later released on bail pending further inquiries.

While open to all sections of the community, the youth club which is close to the loyalist Lincoln Courts, attracts a larger Catholic membership.

The mother of one of the teenagers said the mob was shouting “horrible sectarian abuse” as she fled from the club with her son.

The woman, who did not wish to be named, said the crowd was shouting “Fenian bastards and Fenian whores” at female youth workers who were trying to calm the situation as she arrived to collect her 15-year-old son.

“Two weeks ago as my son was walking home from the club, he stopped to get a bottle of water in a shop and was attacked by a crowd.

"He was grabbed by the throat and head butted so from then on I started picking him up from the club.

“I called him about 9.15 on Tuesday and he was frantic; he was shouting ‘Mammy don’t come here, don’t come here, there’s a crowd outside; they trying to kill us.’ “

The Derry woman said when she arrived at the scene with her other son she could see bottles being thrown at two youth workers who told her they had called the police.

The youth workers closed the shutters of the club to keep the mob from attacking the young people inside. She got her son, his friend and his friend’s younger sister into the car.

“I told my sons and the others to lie on the floor and as I drove away the crowd were making a run for the gates," she said.

At least one other family was forced to run the same gauntlet of abuse to get their children out of the club, the woman said.

Sinn Féin councillor for the area, Christopher Jackson said that while it was the first time the club was targeted, tensions had been rising in Derry’s Waterside over the summer.

“Loyalists saturated the area with flags, more than usual and erected earlier than usual, over the summer. There is a lot of good work going on in the Waterside but it seems the sole reason for this attack was that there were Catholics attending the club. Think of the terror those young people must have felt,” he said.

SDLP councillor, Martin Reilly said the incident was “an inexcusable act of bigotry.”


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