Northern Ireland news

Calls for calm after 13-year-old Protestant boy victim of sectarian attack in north Belfast

A 13-year-old Protestant boy attended hospital after a sectarian attack in Brougham Street in north Belfast on Sunday. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Connla Young

THERE have been calls for calm after a 13-year-old Protestant boy was attacked in north Belfast.

The teenager was kicked and punched in the head at a fast food outlet at Brougham Street at around 5.30pm on Sunday.

The attack took place a short distance from a contentious loyalist bonfire at Adam Street, close to the interface between loyalist Tiger's Bay and nationalist New Lodge.

The victim, who is from the York Road area, was with two friends when they were surrounded by a group of youths before being asked where they were from and what religion they were.

It is believed that after refusing to answer the teenager was kicked and punched and later required hospital treatment for facial injuries.

The PSNI last night said "the assault is being treated as a sectarian motivated hate crime".

DUP assembly member for the area Brian Kingston, who described the incident as a "deplorable hate crime", said he has spoken to the boy's mother.

Mr Kingston said when she arrived at the scene youths were seen in the Cityside Retail Park heading in the direction of New Lodge.

"On the advice of the PSNI, the assaulted boy has been taken to hospital for an assessment of his head injury," he said.

"I hope that his physical injuries will not be long-term but clearly such an experience will be traumatic for any person."

The DUP politiican called for calm.

"Those who carried out this attack are condemned by their own actions," he said.

"Whilst they may be seeking to escalate tensions in north Belfast, we would appeal for calm and for all efforts across the community to be put into bringing those responsible to justice.”

SDLP councillor Paul McCusker condemned the assault and said he was "particularly disheartened by the sectarian element in this attack".

“At this time of year there will always be those that seek to raise tensions and we need to see community representatives from both sides on the ground showing leadership and working hard to ensure that the next few weeks pass off without incident," he said.

Sinn Féin councillor JJ Magee also hit out at the attack.

“This incident during which a youth was assaulted was absolutely disgraceful and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms by political and civic leaders," he said.

“My thoughts are with the victim and I wish him a speedy recovery."

He added those "responsible need to be held accountable".

“Sectarianism needs challenged every time it raises it’s ugly head and we all must unite to oppose it,” he said.

Alliance MLA for the area Nuala McAllister said her thoughts are with the victim.

"There is absolutely no excuse for any such violence and I urge anyone with information on it to take it to the police immediately," she said.

Meanwhile, police are investigating after a 14-year-old was assaulted in east Belfast.

The attack took place at CS Lewis place on Friday some time between 10.40pm - 11pm.

Police say the 14-year-old was assaulted by approximately 15 people aged around 18 years old.

A PSNI spokeswoman last night said a "sectarian motive is not being investigated in relation to this incident at this time".

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