This is the condition in which Derry man Paul McCauley remains five years on from a brutal sectarian attack which has left him in a permanent coma.
Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of the attack on the Prehen man who was attending a barbeque with friends at a house on Chapel Road. Up to 15 people were in the gang that attacked the father-of-one, who was 29 years-old at the time.
The Independent Monitoring Commission later said the attack was carried out by UDA elements.
The attack left Paul requiring round-the-clock care and unable to communicate with his family, except by blinking his eyes occasionally.
To date only one person has been convicted in connection with the attack. Mr McCauley’s family have maintained that the rest of the gang were assisted by some within the Protestant community and are still receiving protection.
His father, Jim McCauley, has spoken of a “wall of silence” in Protestant areas but has now said, for the first time, that gaps are starting to appear in that ‘wall’.
“It now appears that the wall of silence that the police met has been broken at last, whether it’s conscience or commitment.
“The wall of silence has been broken which has given the police new impetus. It is possibly due to an adjournment debate held in Stormont in February during which politicians from all parties encouraged people to come forward. They stood shoulder to shoulder with our family,” he said.
Despite that, the retired teacher said he believes there are some within the Protestant community who are continuing to protect his son’s attackers but added he is determined to campaign until all are brought to justice. “It would be a personal satisfaction for me to see more convictions but it’s not going to help Paul. It would help the rest of the family though. These people remain a threat to society and are a stain on the communities that protect them in the Fountain and Irish Street,” he said.
He described the initial stages of the police investigation as “frustrating” but said he is hopeful more prosecutions will follow. “It has been a frustrating five years in terms of the police investigation but things are moving in the right direction now. The police investigation is in gear again and we are confident that the police did not gear up the investigation without good cause. We are hopeful there will be more prosecutions in the pipeline.”
Mr McCauley said his family visit Paul daily and read to him and play him music. “There has been no changes in Paul’s condition. He has not deteriorated but he has not got any better either. He has partial communication with his eyes but only when he receives a high level of stimulation. He has moved from the hospital to a special care home environment and he seems to be more settled there,” he explained.
He also appealed to the UDA to explain why his son was attacked. “Our frustration has been added to by the fact that the UDA have never given a reason for the attack. They never gave a reason why they changed their policy from defending their community, as they say they were orignally set up to do, to turning the tables and going on the offensive and attacking Catholics simply because of their religion. It is our firm belief that the leadership of the UDA knew all about this and assisted the cover up,” he said.