Northern Ireland

Four, youngest just 13, released on bail after sectarian assault on teenager at north Belfast interface

The attack was reported at the Girdwood Avenue area on Friday

Girdwood Community Hub in north Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell
The assault was reported on Friday on Girdwood Avenue, close to the Girdwood Community Hub facility in north Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell

A teenager was left hospitalised after an assault in an interface area of north Belfast police are describing as a sectarian hate crime.

The male victim was said to have been punched and kicked by a number of people during the incident in the Girdwood Avenue area around 5.50pm on Friday.

He required hospital treatment after suffering injuries to his arm, nose and head.

Four teenage boys – aged 13, 14, 15 and 16 – were subsequently arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent and affray and have since been released on bail to allow for further police enquiries.

DUP Councillor Jordan Doran objected to signs on certain streets in north Belfast
DUP Councillor Jordan Doran

The DUP’s Oldpark councillor Jordan Doran said such incidents were an ongoing problem, but work was continuing to improve relations in the area.

“I’ve no problem condemning any alleged sectarian attack in the area, but this is something that myself and other party colleagues and community reps have been working on for months, if not years,” he told the Irish News.

“It’s something that will require an integrated approach in terms of departments, the police and other statutory agencies to tackle these ongoing issues.”

The incident took place close to the Girdwood Community Hub, a former army barracks converted into a cross-community facility that includes a 3G pitch that can be used for football, gaelic and rugby.

“There’s community work that happens on both sides of that facility from lower Oldpark to Cliftonville and the New Lodge, so everyone’s taking the same approach that we’ll work together to try and combat these ongoing issues because they are ongoing,” he said.

“I would encourage anyone that’s going to any area of Belfast to stir up trouble to refrain from doing so, because the likelihood is that they will end up with the police.

“Everyone should instead be speaking out against these alleged sectarian assaults.”

Last June, the DUP’s Fred Cobain stated he had “difficulty” calling the Girdwood site a shared space, questioning how welcoming the facility had become for protestants.

“A lot of Protestant unionist groups in this area feel isolated when they go there,” he said at the time.

“There have been difficulties here over the last few years, and I know a lot of football teams that have been there simply now refuse to go, because they feel intimidated.”

Sinn Féin’s JJ Magee denied it was unwelcoming for young people from a protestant background while independent councillor Paul McCusker said that although there were issues at the facility, this was also true of other sites across the city and argued there was “a lot more positive than goes on there than negative.”

A police spokesperson said the assault is being investigated as a sectarian hate crime, with anyone with relevant information urged to call 101, quoting reference 68 of March 3.