26 March 2006

No hugs for me

Sunday Life

Stephen Breen
26 March 2006

A victim of a UDA gun attack has criticised Irish President Mary McAleese's decision to meet with the terror group's leaders.

Ardoyne man Jason O'Halloran, who hails from the same area as the Irish president, has requested a meeting with Mrs McAleese to discuss his case.

The 31-year-old - who only received £487 compensation from the NIO for his injuries - was blasted twice in the leg, and once in the groin, by a loyalist hit-squad, on July 21, 2002.

The Belfast man was originally offered £1,900 - but the figure was reduced, because he had six previous traffic fines.

Mr O'Halloran, who also hit out at Mrs McAleese's husband, Martin, for attending a recent meeting in Belfast with senior UDA leaders, including the group's south Belfast brigadier, Jackie McDonald.

Said the gun victim: "I come from the same area as Mrs McAleese and I have been trying to get a meeting with her, but have had no luck.

"The people she has met are the same people who tried to kill me, and I just want to let her know that a threat still exists against people like myself in north Belfast.

"I would like her help in my case and I would just like to tell her a bit about it. I would even go to Dublin to meet her if I had to.

"I would love to hear from her and I intend to keep writing to her in the hope that she takes the time to listen to my story.

"If Mrs McAleese and her husband can meet with the UDA, then surely they can make time for their victims?"

Mrs McAleese's office refused to comment on her husband's private Belfast meeting that involved UDA bosses.

A spokeswoman at Aras an Uachtarain, the president's official residence, said it was official policy not to comment on any "private meeting".

Mr O'Halloran was chatting to a friend at the corner of Rosapenna Street, off the Old Park Road, when the gunmen opened fire.

The same UFF gang murdered Catholic teenager, Gerard Lawlor, just 10 minutes later.

Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan has launched an investigation into the shooting after she was presented with fresh evidence about the shooting, last year.

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