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500 children shot or beaten by paramilitaries since 1990

Marie Louise McConville m.mcconville@irishnews.com

MORE than 500 children have been beaten or shot by paramilitaries in Northern Ireland in the past 23 years, a new report has found.

A detailed investigation shows that between 1990 and 2013, 94 children were shot by loyalist paramilitaries while 73 children were shot by republicans.

Over the same period 166 children were subject to loyalist beatings while republican gangs attacked 178 young people.

With more than 4,200 shootings and beatings since 1990 figures show that 511 incidents - more than 12 per cent of all attacks - involved children under the age of 17.

The figures were released yesterday as part of They Shoot Children, Don't they?, a new report on paramilitary child abuse by Prof Liam Kennedy, from Queen's University Belfast.

In 1997 he stood in the Westminster elections on a campaign to raise awareness about human rights issues, particularly so-called punishment beatings by paramilitary groups in areas such as west Belfast.

The release of the report came just hours after a man in his thirties became the latest victim of a paramilitary shooting.

Republicans are believed to have shot the man twice in the legs.

The report, however, which spans more than two decades, reveals that more than half all the attacks were carried out by loyalists.

While men in their twenties were found to make up the greatest majority of victims, there was a small minority of older people targeted.

A total of 117 people aged 50 and above were beaten or shot, including six women in this age group, who were assaulted.

The oldest man shot by loyalists was 58, while the oldest man shot by republicans was 68. The oldest age for an assault victim was 75.

A total of 92 women have also been targeted by loyalist and republican paramilitaries in the period.

The greatest number of victims were aged between 20 and 39, 64 in total.

However, paramilitaries have also been consistent in targeting young people.

The youngest victims shot by loyalists were aged 14 to 15. However, while the youngest victims beaten were under 14, included was a nine-year-old child in 2009.

Loyalists were responsible for a total of 260 attacks while republicans carried out 251.

The youngest victims shot by republicans fell into the 14 to 15 age group while the youngest beaten were under 14, including three 12-year-olds in 2001.

According to the report, republicans "dominated the vigilante stakes" in the early years, while in later years "loyalists came increasingly to the fore".

Prof Kennedy also found that the arrival of peace made little difference to children as "both loyalist and republican paramilitaries increased the level of repression against children in the decade after the paramilitary ceasefires of 1994".

"Vigilante-style beatings roughly doubled as compared to the years immediately preceding the cease-fires," he said.

"In a belated improvement they then tapered off steeply after 2004, in part it would seem due to political pressure and persuasion.

"This was particularly true of the Provisional IRA, the organisation which historically had been responsible for most shootings and mutilations and which withdrew into the shadows in these later years.

"In 2013, the final year of this study, one child aged either 14 or 15, was shot by loyalists and two children were subjected to paramilitary-style beatings.

"There were no child victims of republican-aligned groups in 2013. Whether this was the end game or not only time will tell."

Loyalist punishment attacks according to age group Age Shootings Beatings U-16 12 56 16-17 82 110 18-19 154 154 20-29 520 597 30-39 229 292 40-49 70 143 50 > 10 61 TOTAL: 1077 1413

Republican punishment attacks by age group Age Shootings Beatings U-16 7 35 16-17 66 143 18-19 140 144 20-29 380 474 30-39 110 141 40-49 43 52 50 > 13 33 TOTAL: 759 1022

Loyalist attacks on children between 1990/2013 Age Shootings Beatings U-14 0 8 14-15 12 48 16-17 82 110 TOTAL 94 166

Republican attacks on children between 1990/2013 Age Shootings Beatings U-14 0 3 14-15 7 32 16-17 66 143 TOTAL 73 178

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