**Thank God the taxi driver stopped

Lucky to be alive - attempted murder in Whitewell
Machete attack happened at same place as murder of Gerard Lawlor

A teenager who was stabbed by Loyalists last Sunday is still in a critical condition after a man attacked him in a Shankill Butcher style attack with a large machete.
Doctors have told the 18-year-old from the Whitewell area of North Belfast that he is lucky to be alive as the knife, which was plunged upwards into his body hitting major organs on the way, narrowly missed his heart.
Surgeons at the Mater Hospital had to remove the young man’s spleen because of internal organ damage and they also had to tend to his lung, which was punctured, his pancreas as well as his bowels, which were damaged during the murder bid.
Over two years ago teenager Gerard Lawlor was murdered at exactly the same spot on Floral Road.
His killers have never been brought to justice, despite investigating PSNI officers knowing exactly who carried out his murder. His mother Sharon has said her heart and thoughts are with the victim’s family at this time.
“It’s absolutely crazy that this nearly happened again. People have a right to walk home.
“It really stunned me to find out that the attack happened at the same spot and the same time as my Gerard’s.
“It’s brought it all back to me. I just thought ‘My God, this can’t be happening again’.”
The PSNI is describing the attack as attempted murder and are currently examining CCTV footage.
The vehicle used in the attack was later found burned out at the Loughside Recreation Centre.
The teen, who had just come home from a holiday with friends in Tenerife on Saturday, was walking home from his friend’s house around midnight on Sunday when he was attacked.
The victim was too ill to speak but his father said that his son saw a young man walk towards him.
“He was wearing a cap and he had it pushed down over his eyes.
“My son said that he remembers thinking that he didn’t recognise him and that’s when he pulled a knife. He said it all happened so fast.
“A car then pulled up with his attacker’s mate in it and when a taxi driver pulled up to see what was happening, they drove off.
“That taxi man saved his life, I think, because if he hadn’t have pulled up, I think they would have finished him off.”
Glengormley parish priest Fr Dan Whyte has advised young teenagers in the area to be cautious when they are walking home.
He has also told them to always get a taxi home.
“This was a murder attempt. I hope these gangs will be apprehended by the police as quickly and efficiently as the bandsmen’s attackers were,” he said.

Spying lookout on Whitewell must be tackled – Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin councillor Danny Lavery has said he will be asking Belfast City Council to investigate the option of moving a barrier further on down the road that leads to Belfast Zoo.
The reasons for moving the barrier were highlighted to him by a number of constituents who said that loyalists were using the road as a viewpoint to lock onto potential Catholic targets walking down the Floral Road.
“Residents have contacted me to say that they have seen suspicious cars sitting on this road.
“They say that the barrier needs to be moved on down the road so that no cars can get a panoramic view of Floral and the Antrim Road junction.
“In fact one constituent of mine, who doesn’t want to be identified said that he witnessed a car sitting up there minutes before this young man was stabbed on Sunday,” Cllr Danny Lavery said.
“I will be making approaches to the council on this matter as a result.”
Danny Lavery said the attack on the 18-year-old youth was sectarian.
“Many people feared there would be a sectarian attack on a nationalist after a UDA show of strength in the Whitewell area during a parade on Saturday.
“Without a doubt this was a sectarian attack carried out by the UDA on a young nationalist in the Whitewell area.
“It was deliberate and premeditated. This young man is extremely lucky to be alive today.
“Unionist politicians and civic and community leaders need to do more to defuse tensions not just in the Whitewell area but throughout North Belfast where there has been an increase in UDA activity.
“We will talk to anybody if it brings trouble to an end.
“However, there is a trend where community workers in White City say they won’t talk because of such and such an attack.
“This is an excuse that we are getting tired of, because at the first sign of trouble, the need is even greater at that point for dialogue and could prevent further injuries and incidents.”

Families ‘pushed to the limit’

Whitewell Community worker Paul McKernon has said that Catholic families living in the lower Whitewell area are being pushed to the limit following an increase in sectarian attacks.
“Tensions have been running high in the area for the last month and even more so after several contentious loyalist and Orange parades were allowed to pass by Catholic homes,” said Paul McKernon.
“Loyalist community workers in the area are saying that we are not engaging in dialogue.
“That is untrue, we have made several efforts to begin dialogue but we have been knocked back each time we have been on the brink.
“As a result relations aren’t good and when there are so many Orange parades passing through here during the summer, and Nationalists just have one at Easter every year, you can tell people are losing their patience.”
Hitting out at allegations that nationalists hemmed in members of the Royal Black Perceptory at their Orange Hall in Greencastle a fortnight ago, the community worker said that not the entire story was told.
“There was no siege. I can tell you that straight off.
“People had free access to leave by using a lane beside the Orange Hall and they did leave, and the crowd, which had gathered there, did not attack them.
“It has to be said there was a crowd of Nationalists outside the hall, and the reason they were there was because Catholics had been attacked on the way to the Hall.”
UPRG representative John Montgomery said that supporters of the parade were angry that camcorders were being used by people standing at a new housing development, to film the parade.
“Camcorders are a big issue up here and someone just lashed out.
“It got a bit messy but the police stepped in and it was sorted out very quickly.
“I thought it went on for at least 15 minutes, but it was over in seconds.”
With other incidents such as mourners attending a funeral being attacked as they walked to St Gerard’s chapel on the Antrim Road was yet another reason for mounting tensions, Paul said the community was feeling persecuted.
“Things have been hotting up here for the last three weeks but we have tried to keep everyone calm.
“In fact when the parade was taking place in memory of Thomas McDonald last weekend, the Greencastle Community Empowerment Partnership organised a fun day at Mill Green.
“It was a mini-fun day and it was attended by nearly 200 people.
“They had a great time and it got people out of the Whitewell, which was blocked off for most of the day anyway.
“So we tried to do something positive and help the situation. But then the next night that young boy was attacked on Floral Road.
“There is no doubt that it was carried out in revenge for the loyalist bandsmen being attacked a couple of weeks ago.
“Stoning of cars has started again and it feels like we’re back to square one. Hopefully we’re not.”

SDLP calls for security camera on Floral Road

The SDLP has called for a security camera to be installed at the same spot where Gerard Lawlor was murdered two years ago and an 18-year-old Glengormley youth was left fighting for his life after a machete-wielding thug attacked him.
SDLP Councillor Pat Convery said the junction of the Floral Road and Antrim Road leading to the Catholic section of the Whitewell Road was a particularly secluded spot that needed tight surveillance.
“Once again there has been a vicious attack on a young man walking along the road,” said Pat Convery.
“I am deeply concerned for this man who remains ill in hospital and my thoughts are with him and his family at this difficult time.
“This was a particularly vicious attack, which can serve no purpose whatsoever.”
Pat Convery, who is also the deputy chairman of the North Belfast District Policing Partnership, said it was high time the PSNI brought an end to these attacks.
“There must be an end to these attacks and we have to get a grip on the lawlessness which continues to bring fear and tension to the local community.
“There has to be an increase in police patrols and where necessary, there must be consideration given to enhancing security measures such as CCTV in secluded spots such as this one.”
The councillor for the area added that his party were asking for a community forum to be set up in the area to facilitate dialogue.
“I and my colleagues want to participate in a facilitated forum to debate the issues relevant to the local community.
“If we are to find a way forward, that forum must have representatives of all political parties and community representatives if we are genuinely determined to tackle the issues locally.”

Council to discuss proposed whitewell community centre

The Community and Leisure Sub-Committee of Belfast City Council has been asked to consider constructing a Council-run community facility in the Whitewell area, possibly at Finlay Park.
Pat Convery made the proposal to the council at a meeting on Tuesday.
“There are limited community resources in the North Belfast area,” said the SDLP man.
“There is one Council-run community centre between Duncairn Gardens and the Whitewell area and that is in Duncairn Gardens.
“We need a facility to encourage people to participate in their communities,” he said.
The Council officers have agreed to seek costings and outline drawings for the proposal and will prepare a report for a future meeting.
Cllr Convery said that a purpose-built community centre would provide a much needed focus for the Whitewell area.
“This would be educational, vocational and recreational and contribute to the positive personal development of members of the local community.”

UPRG condemn attack but say tensions
are still simmering

UPRG representative for Whitewell John Montgomery has condemned a loyalist attack on a young man on Floral Road, which resulted in the victim fighting for his life in an intensive care ward.
The UPRG, which represents the UDA, said that the attack, which was to be condemned, had brought community relations to an all-time low.
“This attack has to be condemned,” John Montgomery said.
“But I think it’s an indication of how tense things are up here.
“It’s hard to imagine that someone would feel that angry that they would pick on isolated members of the public and attack them in this way.
“Something is going to have to be done up here to help this community.
“Frustrations are running high and since the stabbing the community representatives on our side, as well as the other side, have been out on the streets keeping an eye on things.
“Some of those teenagers are busting to get fighting you can tell and I don’t know how long we can contain it.
“Our jobs as community workers are becoming intolerable.
“We’re lucky that this incident and one with the bandsmen involved knives.
“At least with knives you can get patched up in hospital.”

MP calls for better policing in Whitewell

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds has said greater police resources are needed for the Whitewell area following the latest stabbing incident in the area.
“The White City and Whitewell areas of North Belfast have seen continuing levels of intimidation and violence over the entire summer period,” said Nigel Dodds.
“Last weekend there was the stabbing of a number of bandsmen as they returned home and now we have this latest serious incident in which a young man has been viciously attacked.
“It is absolutely essential that the police get on top of the situation to provide protection for all in the area.
“I will be making strong representations to the police on this issue this week.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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