Attack on farmer an attempt to force land sale, QUB professor claims

February 15, 2016

A ‘paramilitary-style’ attack carried out by a three-man gang on a Belleek farmer last month was the latest incident in a series of attempts to force him to sell some of his land, it has been claimed.

The 52-year-old was tending to livestock on his farm on Fort Road when he was confronted by the gang around 8.30am on Tuesday 26th January.  The assailants, who were wearing balaclavas and boiler suits, and one of whom was allegedly armed with a gun, attacked the man, inflicting facial injuries that required hospital treatment.

A Queen’s University professor who works with the Belfast-based human rights group, Children of the Troubles, has become involved in the case and claims the victim has been subjected to “various attempts” aimed at forcing him “to sell part of his holding to others in the locality”.

Professor Liam Kennedy says he spoke to the victim on the day of the attack and was also in contact with the police and the office of Sinn Fein MLA, Conor Murphy.

He revealed he had previously spoken to Mr Murphy and Gerry Adams TD “some months ago” in relation to the case, both of whom advised him to contact police.

“I wrote immediately after the latest attack to Mr Murphy and Mr Adams, detailing the assault and would expect Sinn Féin to issue a statement condemning those involved in these kinds of acts of intimidation.  The other local MLA, Mr Dominic Bradley, has been supportive of the victim [who] wishes to remain anonymous,” he said.

“The background to what is now a criminal investigation, is various attempts to force the rightful owner of the farm to sell part of his holding to others in the locality.  It is appalling that almost 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement, paramilitary figures should still persecute farmers going about their everyday business.”

Professor Kennedy says the case is also being aided by human rights worker, Dr Irene Boada, who, he says, has brought it to the attention of Amnesty International.

Commenting, Dr. Boada said: “This is so sad, not only for the farmer but for his children as well.  Most of us would have thought that this kind of ‘land hunger’ and land-grabbing was part of the past.  It reminds me of John B. Keane’s great play and later film, The Field, which also dealt with attempts to get land at all costs.”

Police have appealed for anyone with information in relation to the attack to contact them in Newry on 101 quoting reference number 200 260116.