21 April 2006

Stabbed in vicious sectarian attack

Daily Ireland

By Connla Young

A County Antrim man has spoken of the moment he thought he was going to die after being seriously injured in a vicious sectarian knife attack last weekend.
Kirk McCaughern says he was terrified that he would lose his life after being stabbed in the back by a knife-wielding loyalist in a Ballymena shopping centre last Saturday.
The 20-year-old and his older brother Leslie were set upon by up to 20 loyalist youths after an altercation in the town’s flagship shopping centre. Last night the unemployed Ballymena man said he believed his attackers were trying to kill him and warned Catholic youths to avoid entering Ballymena town centre.
During the attack, Mr McCaughern was stabbed in the right side of the back which resulted in a punctured lung and damaged liver.
Mr McCaughern says he was stabbed during an altercation with a group of loyalists youths in the town’s busy Tower shopping centre just after lunchtime on Saturday.
During the assault the number of attackers rose to around 20 people. It was only after the attack was ended that Mr McCaughern realised he had been stabbed.
Speaking from his Ballymena home last night, the shaken stab victim recounted the assault which he says almost claimed his life.
“I though that I was going to die. People kept telling me I would be alright and that it wasn’t that bad but there were times I thought it might be over. I could feel pain and when they put tubes into my chest. I did panic a bit. They could have killed me and I think they were trying to kill me. As soon as we walked in they shouted ‘there’s the fenians’. This is the second time I have been attacked like this in the past four years.
In recent weeks sectarian tensions in Ballymena have been rising. A number of loyalist and nationalists flags erected across the town in recent weeks have raised simmering tensions.
Last year the PSNI was forced to mount a major operation to protect Catholic churches and schools in the Ballymena district after several were fire bombed. A number of Catholic families were also forced to flee their homes in nearby Ahoghill after they were targeted in loyalist arson attacks.
Mr McCaughern’s mother Anne Marie says parents in the area are worried by the knife attack on her son.
“I would ask the question as to why it took the police 20 minutes to turn up to help my son in the middle of Ballymena in broad daylight? I would also ask has CCTV footage been seized from the shopping centre, the individual shops and the street? Can someone walk in there, stab someone else and it’s a case of see no evil, hear no evil?”
A spokesperson for the PSNI confirmed that “CCTV footage has been studied”.
Aspokeswoman for the Tower Centre in Ballymena refused to comment on reports that managers were ordered not to co-operate with a PSNI investigation into the knife attack by an anonymous telephone caller.

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