Northern Ireland

Catholic man attacked for wearing GAA jersey

Police treating attack as a sectarian hate crime

Marty McWilliams who was assulted in Portadown. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN
Marty McWilliams who was assulted in Portadown. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

A Catholic man attacked for wearing a GAA jersey in Portadown has told how he was “scared for his life”.

Marty McWilliams was left with injuries to his hand after being attacked by two men in the mainly Protestant town around noon on Sunday.

Police say the attack is being treated as a sectarian hate crime.

Marty McWilliams who was assulted in Portadown. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN
Marty McWilliams shows the injuries to his hand. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

Portadown has a history of sectarian violence.

In 1997 father-of-three Robert Hamill was beaten by a loyalist mob in the town and died in hospital 11 days later from his injuries.

Portadown has also been at the centre of the bitter Drumcree parade dispute.

The latest victim of a sectarian attack in the town said he was challenged while wearing a Los San Patricios GAA Club, Mexico City, jersey as he made his way into a local business in the Mahon Road area around noon on Sunday.

He said his attackers asked: “What are you wearing that f**cking top around here for?”

The father-of-four said one of the men later came into the business and there was an exchange of words before he left.

Mr McWilliams said that when he attempted to return to his car, which was parked nearby, sectarian abuse was hurled at him before he was assaulted.

The 34-year-old said he “defended” himself as the attackers, one of which had a bottle, tried to stop him getting into his car.

He added that when he eventually made it to the vehicle it was targeted causing £3,500 of damage.

Mr McWilliams said he had previously worn GAA tops in the area and is a regular visitor.

The former Cliftonville FC coach told how he feared for his life.

“I was scared for my life because I saw a bottle,” he said.

He said that since the attack his close family and colleagues have “noticed a change” in him and that he has been feeling “deflated”.

“This should not have happened in 2024,” he added.

Originally from Belfast, Mr McWilliams said his former family home was on an interface in the city and in the past they were forced to leave their home every July 12.

“I was brought up on an interface and I have seen so much of the troubles….I have no time for it,” he said.

“I know sectarianism.”

A spokesman for the PSNI said two men were arrested “following the report of an altercation in Portadown on Sunday”.

A spokeswoman said that shortly after 12.15pm it “was reported that a man had been entering a business premises in the Mahon Road area when two men shouted sectarian abuse at him”.

“A fight broke out between the men and damage was caused to a car belonging to the victim,” she said.

Two men, aged 43 and 47, were arrested “on suspicion of common assault and criminal damage”.

Both were later released on bail for further enquiries to be carried out.

“This is being treated as a sectarian hate crime and enquiries are ongoing,” the spokeswoman added.