Northern Ireland

Loyalists linked to ‘heartless’ sectarian attack on new home of nine year-old disabled boy in shared housing development

Two properties were attacked in mixed estate in Antrim before families moved in

Jessy Clark
Jessy Clark (9) with his great grandmothers Margaret Hart and Pauline O'Loan. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

An Antrim woman has branded a loyalist gang that carried out a sectarian attack on the new home of her disabled nine-year-old great-grandson as “cowards” and “thugs”.

Pauline O’Loan spoke out after two properties were targeted - including a specially built bungalow for disabled Jessy Clark - in what police have described as a sectarian-motivated hate crime.

Windows were smashed and paint bombs thrown at two properties at Reford Grove in Antrim at around 3am on Sunday.

One of the properties was specially built for Jessy, who suffers from spina bifida and has a range of other complex medical needs.

Jessy Clark
The specially adapted bungalow in Redford Grove in Antrim that had its windows smashed and paint thrown at it. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

The youngster, who uses a wheelchair, was due to move into the specially adapted house with his young sisters, aged seven and two, and their mother in the coming days.

The purpose-built property has been adapted to meet Jessy’s medical needs and includes a hoist and widened doorways.

His is mother, who is currently on holidays, got the keys of the family new home last Wednesday.

Ms O’Loan told The Irish News on Sunday that the following day the PSNI contacted the child’s mother by phone warning her not to move into the property “because they would be harmed”.

She said the family was now living in fear.

Windows in a house in the nearby Chaine Court area were recently broken with the message “locals only” and cross-hairs sprayed on boarding put up on the property.

There was controversy last week after it emerged that Union and ‘Ulster’ flags had been put at the new mixed development where the houses targeted at the weekend are located off the Belfast Road, and that kerb stones had been painted red, white and blue.

The housing scheme is close to the Ballycraigy estate.

In a statement police said that “four people dressed in dark clothing” ran into the Reford Grove development and threw objects.

Police added that two windows were smashed and paint damage causes at both properties.

A PSNI spokesman said “We are treating this damage as a sectarian-motivated hate crime” adding it takes “a zero tolerance approach to those wanting to cause fear, or incite and promote hatred”.

Jessy Clark
A home in Redford Grove in Antrim that had its windows smashed and paint thrown at it. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

Ms O’Loan said those responsible have “no empathy” and labelled them “heartless”.

“They are pure uneducated cowards, because if they had a job to go to, they wouldn’t be running around at three o’clock in the morning doing that…thugs,” she said.

Ms O’Loan said she does not know who was responsible but said she has been contacted by people from a loyalist background who have condemned the attack.

“The ones who did that are getting led on by some evil force, that’s behind this, and they think that if you’re going to smash a window people’s going to run away,” she added.

She added that her family has been left in fear for their safety.

“We are fearing for our (lives), would any human being put their children in danger like that?” she said.

“I want this condemned, and those threats lifted, that’s what I am calling for, so that Jessy is safe and the other children safe to go into Jessy’s house.

“Jessy doesn’t have anywhere else to go, no other property can accommodate Jessy.”

Jessy Clark

Ms O’Loan repeated the call for any threat to be lifted “so that this child can go and have bath and a shower instead of sitting trapped in a hospital bed 24-7, that he can’t get out of because there’s no room for him to move around.

“That child is sitting in a bed 27-7 apart from when he goes to school and now in the summer he be’s in 24-7, he can’t even go out the living door into the kitchen, he just has to sit in the bed and play his game,” she said.

“His mammy can’t lift him, she has to send for his uncle or somebody to lift him.”

“It’s just sorrowful that child is sitting in a bed trapped in one room.”