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Monday, March 22, 1999 Published at 17:25 GMT


Hunt for 'punishment beating' gang

Ian Price is recovering in hospital after the attack

Police are hunting a gang who viciously beat up a 13-year-old boy in a paramilitary style attack in Northern Ireland.

The Search for Peace
Ian Price is recovering in hospital with a broken arm, several broken fingers, cuts and multiple bruising after being attacked with baseball bats studded with nails in Newtownards, Co Down.

His mother, Grace, was hysterical when she heard what had happened to her son.

She said that at first she feared he was dead. "My legs just went from under me, nobody knows what it is like to get that sort of news," she said. "I would never wish it on any other mother, it is the most terrible feeling."

Ian Price: "They came up behind me"
Security minister Adam Ingram said it was impossible to comprehend what drove grown men to beat a youngster in such a brutal way.

Mr Ingram said: "These thugs have stooped to a new low attacking a 13-year-old boy. I share the concern and horror of local people and local councillors at this appalling act of brutality."

Horrific attack

Ian Price is one of the youngest people ever to suffer a paramilitary beating.

In separate incidents another six were treated for injuries after further attacks.

[ image: Punishment beating and shootings are endemic in Northern Ireland]
Punishment beating and shootings are endemic in Northern Ireland
Five were injured in Lisburn, Co Antrim, when a masked gang forced their way into a flat, and in the Shantallow area of Londonderry a 30-year-old man also suffered at the hands of a gang.

Detectives investigating the attack on the teenager described the beating as "absolutely horrific".

Condemning the beating, the Royal Ulster Constabulary said that the boy, who was playing with friends in a quarry, was singled out by a number of masked men.

John Thorne reports from Belfast
RUC Chief Inspector David Green said: "The group of children was approached by four masked men who singled out the 13-year-old child, threw him to the ground, and beat him continually with baseball bats.

"A gun was then put to his head and he was told to get out of the country within 24 hours.

"Three of the culprits ran off. The fourth remained for a while afterwards and continued to beat the 13-year-old child while he lay on the ground."

Cathy Cander reports on perhaps the youngest ever victim of a paramilitary beating
Reacting to the attack, the shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Andrew Mackay said it proved that paramilitary groups had not renounced violence.

"Those responsible must not only be brought to justice by the police but they should also lose all their political rights under the agreement."

The beating comes as Northern Ireland's leaders attempt to come to a compromise over paramilitary decommissioning after a week which saw two murders - one a sectarian attack on a human rights lawyer, the second the result of a suspected internal loyalist feud.

No deal

Despite an intense round of meetings in Washington during the St Patrick's Day celebrations, unionist and republican leaders failed to strike a deal over a start to decommissioning.

First Minister and Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble insists the IRA must begin decommissioning before he will sit in an assembly executive with members of Sinn Fein.

In a speech to his own party leaders on Saturday, Mr Trimble said the people of Northern Ireland did not vote for an "armed peace".

But Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein, has accused Mr Trimble of bringing the peace process to the brink of collapse, saying he cannot force the IRA to hand over its weapons.

Both UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern have told the leaders he is prepared to personally help broker a deal ahead of the Good Friday deadline to form an executive.

Speaking on Irish radio, Mr Ahern said: "I don't have a formula, but I am prepared to sit down every night of the week, all night, to try and find one.

"If we fail in this - and there is no point in delaying it - then the anti-agreement people win."

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