Northern Ireland news


Catholic couple forced to flee home brand PSNI 'a disgrace'

Damage caused to the couple's car in east Belfast
Connla Young

A Catholic man who fled his east Belfast home with his partner after being targeted by a loyalist mob has described the PSNI as a "disgrace" after it took officers almost an hour to respond to their pleas for help.

The couple, who were branded "Fenian b*******s" during the terrifying ordeal, say they have now been left homeless and are living with relatives.

During the attack, which police have described as a "hate crime", the female victim was hit on the head with a traffic cone.

The pair, who do not want to be identified, believe they were singled out because the man, who is a member of a GAA club in the greater Belfast area, may have been seen playing hurling in nearby Ormeau Park.

He said he and his partner were "besieged" in their home on London Street, off the lower Ravenhill Road, as they waited for help to arrive.

The couple's terrifying experience began on Friday after their car was attacked outside their home by a group of youths.

Days earlier the front door was kicked in while they were on holidays but they dismissed the incident "as kids messing about".

After their car was attacked the man and his partner spoke to police located close to the nearby Belsonic concert.

As they waited for officers to arrive at their home, the mob returned and surrounded their car before causing more damage.

After going outside to challenge the gang, the man was surrounded and as he and his partner tried to make her way back to the house she was hit on the head with a traffic cone.

A Catholic woman was hit on the head with a cone during a loyalist attack

"We had to close the door, lock the door, we were effectively besieged," he said.

The man said he thinks he phoned police up to six times but it still took a further 50 minutes for officers to arrive.

When police did turn up he and his partner fled their home.

He said that the following day police agreed to accompany them back to the property to collect their belongings after they contacted the office of East Belfast MLA Naomi Long.

The man last night said that while individual officers have been helpful "the police as an institution has been a disgrace frankly".

In footage captured of hooded youths outside the couple's home as they waited on police the words "f*****g Fenian b*******s" can be heard.

Justice minister Naomi Long condemned those behind the "mindless attack".

"The victims have been in contact with my office and the case is now being dealt with," she said.

"Everyone has a right to feel safe in their home and as a community we must stand together against hate crime."

The PSNI said it received a report of a car being damaged in the London Street area shortly after 8pm.

A spokesman said enquiries "are ongoing to establish the circumstances of this incident which is currently being treated as a hate crime".

The occupants of the house were assisted by police to leave the property and officers continue to monitor the area.

It is understood that the response time was just under an hour and other callsigns who were in the area were tied up with a Belsonic concert.

"Anyone with a complaint regarding police actions should contact the office of the Police Ombudsman."

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