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Last Updated: Monday, 26 July, 2004, 13:21 GMT 14:21 UK
Families flee after attack
Boarded up home
Gang smashed windows and attacked occupants

Nine people have fled from their County Antrim homes after a gang stormed a house and attacked a man.

A local Sinn Fein councillor has said the attacks had a sectarian motive.

The police say they are investigating a number of motives for the incidents, including the possibility that loyalist paramilitaries were involved.

A 24-year-old man suffered a broken nose, cheekbone, cuts to the face and bruising in the attack in Carrickfergus.

About eight people entered a house in Thomas Street before assaulting the man and pushing him through a downstairs window.

His family said it happened after a row over a Celtic football poster on a child's bedroom wall.

Two children, aged one and two, were sleeping in an upstairs bedroom at the time.

'Forced out'

The victim's sister, Laura McGill, said it was a terrifying attack.

"These people came to the door, bullied their way in," she said.

"(They) just ran in attacking everybody, breaking TVs, videos over my brother's head, chairs over his head, using cans to actually physically hurt them.

"They were leaving circles on them. The marks that's on them is unbelievable.

"I was actually forced out of the house.

"When I tried to use my phone to phone for the police, one of the fellas took the phone off me and smashed it."

The incident took place at about 1930 BST on Saturday.

A Housing Executive spokesman said the families forced to flee their homes had been offered temporary accommodation which they had accepted.

Sinn Fein councillor Oliver McMullan said it was a sectarian attack on nationalists living in Carrickfergus.

This family have only a few boxes of belongings
This family had only a few boxes of belongings with them
He urged unionist politicians and church, community and civic leaders to work together to end what he said was "the campaign of sectarian intimidation coming from within the unionist community".

The SDLP's Danny O'Connor said: "This is a worrying development when the paramilitary gangs feel able to flex their muscles in broad daylight and batter people out of their homes.

"Everyone must have the right to choose their place of residence without fear of discrimination, intimidation or outright violence as seen in Carrickfergus."

Alliance Party assembly member for East Antrim Sean Neeson said: "I am totally disgusted by this attack as three families have now been forced to leave Carrickfergus.

"These families have been long-established in the town and I know that this attack was carried out by people who I consider to be 'blow-ins' who think they own the area. They don't."

The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) has denied the loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Volunteer Force, had anything to do with the attack.

Party representative Carolyn Howarth claimed it was a local dispute between residents which got out of control.

"We have been speaking to the UVF and they have denied any involvement," she said.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI's Rosie Billingham reports
The families are waiting to be rehoused - all because of a row over a football poster"


BBC NI's Karen Atkinson
reports from Carrickfergus



SEE ALSO:
Four injured in separate assaults
25 Jul 04  |  Northern Ireland


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