Mother slams sectarian attack on school bus

The mother of a 14-year-old boy who was injured in an attack on a school bus on the Ligoniel Road on Monday has spoken of her fear that school children could be facing serious danger when the school term begins in September.
The woman, who did not wish to be identified, described how her son was one of a group of students who were on a school bus coming from Hightown CBS which came under attack at the bottom of the Ligoniel Road.
“My son said there were about five men standing at a chip shop at the corner of the Crumlin Road. One of them was kicking tiles on the wall of the chip shop and he lifted one of the tiles and tried to throw it towards the window of the bus. He was about 19 or 20. Then he got on the bus with another man through the emergency door and starting moving down the bus hitting the boys on the heads with a tile and whacking their heads against the windows. The boys were terrified and they ran down towards the front of the bus. One of the boys who is only in first year was in an awful state as he was whacked across the head with the tile.”
The woman said her son described how the man then left the bus and when the bus driver later phoned the police, her son was brought back to the scene, before being brought home.
“They must have thought because he had got a good view of the man that he (my son) would have been able to identify him if he was still in the area. But the police said that there were no complaints made or reports of any injuries.
A PSNI spokesperson said that the attack was carried out on passengers leaving the bus at a bus stop, and that two males “appeared to strike out at some of the passengers”.
The spokesperson also said that that there was no evidence to suggest that the attack was sectarian and that no injuries or complaints had been reported.
“The fact that it happened at that area and it was known to be a bus carrying Catholic schoolboys, that to me makes it sectarian” the woman said.
The woman went on to say that she had phoned the school to tell them what had happened and she was told that teachers from the school would be travelling on the buses again in September.
“They usually travel on the school bus but as it was approaching the end of term, there were no teachers on the bus that day.”
She said that the terrifying attack which had left some of the teenagers badly shaken was the culmination of a number of incidents in the area, and that the bus was often subject to attacks by youths throwing stones.
“My son is fine now, and thank God he only has a bump on his head.
“But I’m worried that he could be attacked again and I’m reluctant to let him travel on any bus, whether it’s a school bus or an ordinary public bus.
“What if that man had a knife on him, or the bus driver had been attacked? I hate to think what might have happened.”
The mother said she intended reporting the incident to the police and she felt it “wasn’t something that could be shoved under the carpet”.
Sinn Féin Councillor for Ligoniel Eoin O’Broin said that those responsible were cowards who had “picked a very easy target.”
He went on to say that the incident followed a number of other attacks in the area in recent days and there was a strong onus on all community leaders “to do whatever they can to bring such attacks to an end”.
“It is not known if all these incidents are related but this most recent attack is the most serious given that it was a physical attack.”
The suggestion by PSNI that the attack was not sectarian was strongly rebuked by Cllr O’Broin.
“The incident happened at the bottom of Ligoniel Road, on a bus carrying Catholic school boys, so it was clearly sectarian in motivation” he said.
“There have been two separate incidents in the Ligoniel area recently, including attacks which took place on Saturday night where cars at the Ballysillan Road had their windscreens smashed.
“There have also been incidents at Squire’s Hill, where youths from the nationalist community were throwing stones at a Protestant house. We have identified who is responsible for the stone throwing at Squire’s Hill and we have spoken to the boys’ parents.
“We would call for an end to such incidents and would urge unionists councillors to do the same. What we need is for community leaders and political leaders on both sides to restore calm.”

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