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PSNI response to sectarian attack on children’s bus unacceptable

17 September, 2008

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has said that there was considerable anger at the slow response by the PSNI to a serious sectarian incident at the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre in Ballymoney on Saturday night. The incident took place after a cross-community Midnight soccer tournament when a mob surrounded a bus of 14-16 year olds from Loughgiel and hurled both sectarian abuse and sectarian threats at the children.

Mr McKay said

"Sectarian attacks on anyone are to be deplored but the majority of right thinking people will be disgusted at the thought of grown up adults surrounding a bus of children and throwing sectarian abuse at those inside. The people who did this are sick and sad individuals and I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying that.

"It is essential that all cross-community work in the Ballymoney area goes ahead unhindered and ironically I think this incident highlights the need for further cross-community work to break down divisions and tackle the sectarian and indeed racist attitudes that exist here.

"Children should not have been forced to stay and endure physical threats and sectarian abuse for an hour at the centre and we will be raising the unacceptable length of time it took to deploy police resources to this incident with the Area Commander.

"The Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre and the facilities attached to it belong to everyone in the Ballymoney area and everyone should be able to use those facilities free from the fear of sectarian harassment and the annual erection of loyalist flags at the entrance to the Leisure Centre.

"Sectarian incidents such as this will continue to occur unless perpetrators are brought to book. I will be asking the PSNI if they identified any of those who took part in what one constituent described to me as 'child abuse', what they are going to do in the wake of this and also whether any of those who took part in this attack will be banned from the Leisure centre. Because if there is no repercussions for this then what is to stop it happening again. There is a huge onus on the authorities and they must send out a clear message through their actions that no longer will a blind eye be turned to sectarian attacks such as these, and no longer will a kid gloves approach be adopted to those who try to intimidate children because of their religion.

"All political representatives also have a duty to tackle sectarianism within their own community. No attack on a person or a person's property because of their religion can in any way be justified and must be condemned. We must see more leadership from both political and community representatives to bring these sectarian attacks to a total and absolute end." ENDS

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