A GROUP of gay tourists was forced to flee Derry's Bogside when they were attacked by a gang of drunken youths wielding bottles and 'BB' guns, the 'Journal' can reveal.
Members of Gay and Lesbian Youth Northern Ireland (GLYNI) and their Australian guests came under fire from the youths at Rossville Street on Saturday afternoon. The visitors were enjoying a tour of the Bogside when they were confronted by the gang who shouted homophobic abuse, threw bottles and stones, and toted the replica firearms. Details of the incident only emerged yesterday afternoon.
David McCartney, of Derry-based gay, lesbian and transsexual support group, the Rainbow Project, said it was a "terrifying experience" for the tourists.
"The group was confronted by a gang of youths throwing bottles and stones and brandishing BB guns. They, therefore, got out of the area as quickly as they could. Thankfully, none of the missiles found their targets and no one was injured."
Mr McCartney explained that the GLYNI members had travelled to Derry from Belfast to explore the city with a group of visiting community workers from Australia. He said they were being shown around the city by "two well known gay people from Derry" when the attack occurred.
"It certainly doesn't give a good image of Derry to visitors and that is all the more disheartening given the fact that Derry is one area where great inroads have been made in relation to combating homophobia in recent years," he added. "They left the city believing it was not quite as lovely as they had first heard."
Michael Cooper, of Free Derry Tours, which operates its own walking tours in the Bogside, expressed shock at the attack.
"We had planned to host our own group in the Bogside that afternoon but we decided not to take them into the area as a precaution after what happened. I'll be honest, it would put me off bringing people into the Bogside."
Police at Strand Road have appealed for information following the incident which they are treating as a homophobic attack. ''This was a totally unwarranted attack on a group of people out to enjoy the sights of the city. The behaviour of these youths is unacceptable and incidents like this reflect badly on the reputation of the city.''