Belfast priest denounces INLA punishment attack as child abuse

BELFAST parish priest Fr Aidan Troy yesterday described the tarring of two Ardoyne teenagers, victims of a so-called punishment attack by the INLA republican paramilitary group, as child abuse.

“It was just an horrendous scene when I got there,” said Fr Troy, describing what he found on a street corner on Holy Thursday night.

“People were screaming and shouting and it developed into quite a nasty scene,” he said.

The boys, aged 14 and 15, had been taken from their homes nearby, chained to a lamp post, had their shirts removed and tar, paint and oil were poured over them.

Fr Troy, who has visited the boys every day in their homes since the attack, said both teenagers were traumatised and one had not ventured out since. He condemned the action as child abuse.

According to Fr Troy, the mother of one of the boys said her son was no angel but tarring him was not a solution.

Local people have been expressing concern at the behaviour of some Belfast youngsters.

“They were into things like breaking into cars, they were climbing up on buildings, they were stealing stuff - these were the accusations made against them,” said Fr Troy.

He added: “It’s what in these circles in Ardoyne would be called anti-social behaviour against the community - and the group that took them away have chosen to say they are going to be the custodians of the peace and they are going to look after the community.

Terry Harkin of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the INLA’s political wing, has said republicans had a duty to protect working class communities.

He claimed the INLA had acted with more empathy than any other republican organisation in similar circumstances.

Previously, Provisional IRA squads kneecapped young people they claimed were involved in anti-social activities in their communities.

Asked to comment on Mr Harkin’s statement, Fr Troy said he was seeking to meet such people to see exactly what they meant.

If people chose to adopt that approach, would they see another 10 children taken from their homes and treated in the same way, he wondered.

“Republican areas need to find some way in which we can live in peace,” said Fr Troy.

“The politicians need to find some way in which we can get the policing up and running."

In the past, the Loyalist UDA paramilitary group has chained people it claimed were engaged in anti-social behaviour and then tarred and feathered them, forcing the victims to hold placards listing their alleged crimes.

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