Bushmills ‘crucifixion’ attack a direct challenge to rule of law - The Irish News view

Nailing of man to fence in Co Antrim involves shocking level of brutality that demands firm response from authorities

Scene at Bushmills in Co-Antrim where a man had his hands nailed to a fence and two vans were burnt out. Graffiti was also painted on a public toilet block in the popular tourist town close to the Giants Causeway. Picture Margaret Mclaughlin 5-5-2024
The scene at Bushmills in Co Antrim where a man had his hands nailed to a fence. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin (MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN PHOTOGRAPHY )

The level of brutality involved in the sustained assault which culminated in a man being literally nailed to a fence in Co Antrim was truly shocking and demands a firm response from the authorities.

It was always clear that a loyalist paramilitary group targeted the victim in Bushmills on Sunday morning, with the belief growing that the UDA, which has a disturbingly strong presence in the area, was the guilty party.

He was said to have suffered life changing injuries when he was seized by a gang, and had his hands spread in what was described as a crucifixion position, before he was nailed to fence boards in a car park close to the centre of a village which has been attempting to develop its tourist potential.

Scene at Bushmills in Co-Antrim where a man had his hands nailed to a fence and two vans were burnt out. Graffiti was also painted on a public toilet block in the popular tourist town close to the Giants Causeway. Picture Margaret Mclaughlin 5-5-2024
Two vans were found on fire in a car park near Dundarave Park in Bushmills. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin (MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN PHOTOGRAPHY )

Two vans, one belonging to the injured man, who is in his 20s and recovering in hospital after he was cut free by the emergency services, were set ablaze at the scene by the perpetrators, and graffiti which was apparently linked to the assault was painted on nearby public toilets.

It would be wrong to speculate on the background to the attack but what can be said with certainty is that the people who carried it out were criminal thugs with no interest in the well-being of wider society.

Paramilitary groups on both sides of the divide have routinely organised similarly evil assaults and shootings in the past in an effort to impose their own control on particular districts.

While they sometimes claim to be dealing with anti-social behaviour, their own members have regularly been convicted of drug dealing, extortion and other hugely serious offences.

There has even been evidence that individuals who were shot or beaten by paramilitaries have subsequently themselves been recruited by the same factions.

The overall number of such paramilitary attacks is at a much lower level than during the worst days of the Troubles, but PSNI figures indicate that they more than doubled, from seven to 19, during the 12 months up to October of last year.

The fence against which a man was ‘ crucified’ in Bushmills, County Antrim overnight.  


The man was nailed to the fence and 100 yards away two vehicles were burnt following the savage overnight attack. 


One of the vans is believed to be connected to the victim who is currently in hospital. 


Police have issued the following statement in relation to the incident : 


“ Detectives are appealing for information following a report of a serious assault in Bushmills in the early hours of today, Sunday 5th May.   

Shortly after midnight, it was reported that a man had been discovered ‘nailed’ to a fence with a nail through each hand. 

      The man, aged in his 20s, also had injuries to his nose and is being treated in hospital where his condition is described as not life-threatening.   Also in the public car park near Dundarave Park, two vans including one belonging to the injured man were on fire. Crews from NI Fire and Rescue Service also attended, extensive damage was caused to both vehicles.   

      Graffiti found on a nearby gable wall of public toilets is being linked to the assault and arson.   Detective Inspector Lyttle said: “This was a sinister attack which has left this man with potentially life-changing injuries. 

      Everyone has the right to live their life free from the threat of violence and this brutal attack by people who violate the human rights of others must be universally condemned.   "We live in a democratic society where there is no justification for this. 

     Those responsible brutalise their own communities and control others through intimidation and violence.   “This happened in a residential area with a number of holiday lets which would be busy during this bank holiday weekend and we are asking anyone who noticed anything or who may have dashcam footage to contact us urgently on 101 or confidently to Crimestoppers.  

     “Our enquiries are ongoing and we would appeal to anyone who was in the area at the time and has any information, including dash-cam or other footage, to contact police on 101 quoting reference 13 of 5/5/24.”
The fence a man was nailed to in Bushmills, Co Antrim (Alan Lewis - Photopress Belfast/Photopress Belfast)

Given the audacious nature of the Bushmills outrage, and the message it sent out, it is essential that a firm spotlight is placed on the activities of the UDA.

Its representatives are publicly associated with the Loyalist Communities Council, among other organisations, so their identity is hardly a secret.

The difficulties in bringing paramilitary suspects before the courts have been well documented but what happened in Bushmills can only be regarded as a direct challenge to the rule of law and order.

There will be an expectation that the PSNI has both the determination and the resources to ensure that prosecutions follow without delay.