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Outrage at vicious attack on local Gaeltacht students

August 10, 2010


By Brónagh Murphy

Eight local students are recovering after they were viciously attacked by a gang of around 20 youths in a Donegal Gaeltacht.

The students, aged 15 and 16 years old, are attending Coláiste Mhuire in Loch an Iúir, and are pupils of St. Paul’s High School in Bessbrook and St. Colman’s College in Newry.

The incident occurred when the teenagers were returning from afternoon classes at the college to their accommodation around 5pm on Tuesday last, less than a week into the three-week course.

Their attackers, who are believed to be in their late teens and from the locality, were lying in wait and set upon the group.

The teenagers were punched, kicked and dragged along the road. Some had their hurleys taken off them and these were used to beat them.  All eight suffered cuts and bruises, with one requiring four stitches to a head wound.  The attack only ended when a passing motorist intervened.

Unprovoked

The unprovoked attack has shocked staff, students and parents and came ‘totally out of the blue’, according to the joint principal of Coláiste Mhuire, Donal O’Neill.

Although there were a number of verbal incidents between students and locals in recent weeks, he is ‘absolutely at a loss’ as to why the teenagers were attacked, he said.

“Some of our boys were playing a soccer tournament here and were walking home for their tea as they do every evening at five o’clock,” Mr O’Neill said.

“Basically they were walking up the road and a gang of youths appeared out of the side of the road and for some unknown reason attacked eight of our students.

“They were kicked and punched and dragged along the ground. It lasted a couple of minutes until a local man got out of his car and shouted. Then they all dispersed.

“They have some injuries mostly minor, with one more serious – one student actually had to get four stitches in his head,” he added.

Mr O’Neill said all the students were recovering well and have chosen to continue with the course which is scheduled to end on August 20th.

“Obviously we are gutted that this happened.  We have a good understanding with the people of Loch an Iúir and it is unfortunate that this group of thugs are intent on attacking our students,” he said and he urged locals to assist the Gardaí in tracking down the perpetrators.

Gardaí are investigating the incident and took statements from the injured students.

Reaction

SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh, Dominic Bradley, has expressed his disgust at the attack.

“This was a shocking attack on young people who are in the Gaeltacht to learn Irish and those responsible for it should be ashamed of themselves,” Mr Bradley said.

“I have spent many years as a student and as a teacher at Irish colleges in the Gaeltacht and my experience is that host communities in the Gaeltacht traditionally give students a very warm welcome.  Many lifelong friendships are built up between the students and the families with whom they stay.  It is this type of friendship rather than the violence directed at these students which usually characterises relationships between the local people and the students.

“The behaviour of those who attacked these students is not, in my experience, representative of the people of the Gaeltacht. This incident requires an investigation by the Gardaí to help ensure that those responsible are brought to book and that the students can continue their studies without fear of any further incidents,” he added

Sinn Féin MLA Mickey Brady says he is shocked at the attack and hopes it does not put students off attending the Irish language courses.

“I hope that this attack does not dissuade young people from attending the Gaeltacht in the future as I believe it provides a wonderful opportunity for them to learn more about their language and culture,” Mr Brady said.

“However we must do everything we can to ensure that those participating in Gaeltacht Colleges are safe at all times and I believe that this incident needs to be fully investigated to this end.”


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