A heavily pregnant woman was hospitalised after a loyalist mob attacked motorists in Derry on Monday evening.
The mother-to-be was terrified for the well-being of her unborn baby when her car was accidentally struck by another vehicle trying to escape the “baying mob” in the Waterside. The motorists were driving home from work when they were attacked by a section of a loyalist crowd protesting over the Belfast City Hall union flag row.
The 42 year-old father of two, who was driving the car which struck the woman’s vehicle, told the ‘Journal’, he feared for his life as angry protesters turned violent. The attack happened as he was moving off from the traffic lights at the junction of Glendermott Road and Rossdowney Road. “They jumped out in front of me and a bottle was thrown, it bounced off the front of the car. They shouted get him, get him. They surrounded the car and one of them was kicking the door, he was really booting it in. As one of them tried to grab the door handle to open the door, I panicked and reversed straight into the woman behind. She was heavily pregnant and was very badly shaken,” the said.
The woman, who works as a carer in the community, said she was horrified. “They were like vultures, they surrounded his car so quickly. He panicked, which is a totally natural reaction in the circumstances and it was in no way his fault. They were like animals with their hoods up and scarves covering their faces. Some of them looked no more than 14 or 15 years old.”
She added: “As the car in front hit me the seatbelt jolted violently on my bump and I didn’t know what to think. I went straight to hospital where I spent seven hours, four in A and E and three in the foetal assessment unit.
“As I have a rare blood type - I’m Rhesus negative and my partner is Rhesus positive - I have to be extra careful in terms of my baby’s safety in case our blood mixes. So far I’ve been given the all-clear but I’m going back for more tests tomorrow.”
She spoke of being “absolutely terrified” when one of the mob tried to open her car door.
“Thankfully my car locks automatically but I could hear them shouting ‘get the cars, get the cars’. It was a completely random attack - there could have been young children in the car. It would not have mattered to them.
“It is disgusting to think that people would do such a thing over the head of a flag.”
The mob “backed off” following the collision and the victims drove to the safety of nearby Rossdowney Park and alerted the police.
SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan said the behaviour of the attackers was “disgraceful”.
“While I am not in any way opposed to peaceful protests, this incident shows the potential serious repercussions of the actions of protestors.” Mr Durkan also called for “stronger leadership from within political unionism” to help avoid such street violence. “There are unionist politicians who condemn the violence but at the same time they keep stirring the pot.”
“People in Derry are more interested in us (MLAs) discussing jobs, health and other matters which affect people’s lives rather than debating divisive issues such as the flying of flags.”
Police have appealed for anyone with information on the attacks to contact them at Strand Road station on 0845 600 8000.