03 May 2006

Bus full of loyalists puts four in hospital

Daily Ireland

PSNI lets vehicle stop a second time, giving mob another chance to attack defenceless nationalists

By Connla Young

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThe PSNI faced criticism last night after an attack by a gang of loyalists in Co Derry led to four nationalists being hospitalised. (Click photo to view)
An elderly man, two teenage boys and their mother were treated for their injuries after a bus load of loyalists went on the rampage on the Glenshane Pass, near Maghera, on Monday evening.
During the hour-long incident, 71-year-old John Convery was beaten to the ground after challenging up to 30 loyalists from Derry city who had vandalised a roadside mural dedicated to the 1981 hunger strikers. An elderly neighbour who came to his aid was also savagely assaulted.
Mr Convery’s car was damaged in the attack. The loyalist mob then stole his car keys and made off.
It is understood that a number of people on the bus had taken part in a soccer match earlier in the day.
The PSNI later intercepted the bus, which was taken to the nearby town of Tobermore.
Mr Convery later arrived at the scene with a number of people. He made a complaint to the PSNI and offered to identify his attackers.
After being released by the PSNI, the loyalists returned to the Glenshane Pass. They attacked Kathleen Hegarty and her sons Rory and Ciarán in their home as police officers looked on.
Speaking to Daily Ireland from his home, John Convery explained how the loyalist mob had set upon him.
“I was attending to my sheep when I saw these people shouting and roaring and noticed that the mural was wrecked.
“I stopped with them and asked them what they were doing. I told them that they were trespassing. Before I knew it, there were four or five people in my face. Then one of them hit me and cowped me. I never saw anything like that in my life.
“I later asked the police if they had got their names after they stopped them and they said ‘no’. Another man offered to identify them.
“Then the police said they were taking them to the barracks in Magherafelt, but they didn’t. They let them go instead. All the time, these boys were roaring and shouting like wild animals.
“I intend to push this as far as I can. I will go to the Police Ombudsman. There is no law and order when a 71-year-old man can be knocked to the ground at the side of the road and no action is taken. It’s simple. There is nobody to keep order,” said Mr Convery.
Martin Molloy, a friend of the Convery family, arrived at the scene a short time after the attack.
“It was a very frightening experience for all of these people. John Convery is an elderly man. Nobody deserves this to happen to them when they are minding their own business,” he said.
Magherafelt Sinn Féin councillor Patsy Groogan slammed those involved in the attack.
“I condemn the thugs and challenge the RUC/PSNI why, when they had three opportunities to defuse this situation, they did nothing.
“John Convery had nothing to do with this billboard and neither had this woman and her sons.
“The behaviour of the attackers and the PSNI, who allowed the bus to stop a second time and those in it to attack this family, is unacceptable,” said the councillor.
A spokesperson for the PSNI said: “Two people arrested have since been released on police bail pending further inquiries into the matter.”
The spokesperson said several windows on the minibus had been smashed.

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