The father of one of three boys jumped in a sectarian attack on Derry’s Peace Bridge has said they were unlikely to return to the cityside to socialise.
The three victims, who come from Protestant backgrounds, were on their way to meet Catholic friends they had met during several years of cross-community projects when they were jumped by a gang of around 15 youths on Friday night.
The boys, two of whom are aged 15 and the third 14, all sustained injuries in the assaults, and the attack could have been even more serious but for the intervention of a local taxi driver and a member of the public.
The taxi driver drove one of the boys home while the other two made their way back to the Waterside on foot.
The father of one of the 15-year-olds said the boys could have been killed after one was set upon at the Peace Garden next to the Guildhall and the other two were pursued across four lanes of traffic before set upon on the Peace Bridge.
The man- who does not want to be identified- said all three had been left very shaken by their ordeal.
He said: “Friday night 10 o’clock was the first I was aware of it when my son came in crying . I asked him what happened him and he said I was meeting a few of my Catholic friends in town dad, and I was jumped by between 15 to 20 young fellows who told him ‘you’re not welcome on this side of the water you Hun b*****ds’ and ‘Orange B*****ds’.”
He said his son and his friends have all taken part in cross community sporting projects and residentials.
“For this to happen was quite ridiculous to be honest. The other parents as well are totally disgusted at what happened. It’s crazy.”
The man said their children at one stage were afraid they might even be thrown in the river.
“They don’t feel safe any more. I know with me personally and the other two children they have never been brought up to sectarian. If they were they wouldn’t be going across to meet up with their Catholic friends.
Listing the injuries visited on the three boys, he said: “One is grazed all down one side of his face, badly swollen knee and ankle, eye is bloodshot, one has a suspected broken nose and the other guy has a grab mark to his throat and a lot of bruising, sore all over from head to toe where they were punching and kicking him.
“They weren’t wearing any Rangers or Northern Ireland tops that they say might provoke this.”
He said that after learning of the attack, he travelled over to the city centre with his brother and was shocked at how many young people were gathering around the Foyle Street/ bottom of Shipquay Street area at night.
“It was colossal, there were at least 150 to 200 wains and there are obviously community groups in the Derry vicinity getting funding to keep these children occupied at night is beyond me.”
He urged parents to be vigilant over what their children are doing, adding: “This could have been tragedy; it could have been a lot worse. It just takes one simple punch to the head and you fall the wrong way and you are dead.”
Police have confirmed as being treated as a sectarian hate crime. Three male youths- one aged 13 and two aged 14- were arrested following the incident. All three have now been released on police bail pending further enquiries.
Inspector Tony Moore has appealed for witnesses to phone 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.